Snippets

Snippets

And now, GM monkeys!

Genetically modified monkeys that glow in ultraviolet light and pass the trait on to their young have been created by scientists in Japan in controversial research that “raises the stakes” over animals rights.
The work paves the way for scientists to breed large populations of primates with genetic faults responsible for incurable human conditions, but could also spark an ethical backlash for introducing harmful genes into the primate population.
Researchers hailed the feat as a major step towards understanding the development of inherited diseases, such as Parkinson’s and motor neurone disease, from the cradle to the grave. But the work is likely to dismay animal rights groups as it could lead to a rise in the number of primates used in research labs.

GM human beings next?

The work also raises the possibility of genetically modified humans, although such work is outlawed in most countries, including Britain. In a proof of principle experiment, Erika Sasaki and her team at the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Kawasaki, Japan, added a gene to marmoset embryos that made them glow green under ultraviolet light. The embryos were transferred into surrogate females, which led to five live births.
All of the newborn monkeys carried the green gene somewhere in their bodies, and two were able to pass the gene on to their own offspring. In April, a male GM marmoset was born using sperm from one of the monkeys, called Kou, and two more glowing marmosets have been born since. One died after being bitten by its mother.
All the monkeys are healthy and do not glow under normal lighting conditions. The scientists now plan to create families of monkeys that develop neurodegenerative diseases similar to those seen in humans. “Our method for producing transgenic primates promises to be a powerful tool for studying the mechanisms of human diseases and developing new therapies,” the authors write in the journal Nature.
Scientists commonly use GM mice to learn about human diseases, but in some cases recreating diseases in primates will be more informative.
“This is potentially very exciting for the future of research into the causes of Parkinson’s disease,” said Kieran Breen at the Parkinson’s Disease Society. “Because non-human primates are much closer to humans than mice, the successful creation of transgenic marmosets means that we will have a new animal model to work with.”

Ian Sample
The Guardian


Crater shaped by wind, water, shows Mars Rover

The two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have provided much information about the planet in the five years they’ve been rolling around the surface. The data relates to the role water might have played in the planet’s past, and a new paper in Science, describing Opportunity’s exploration of Victoria Crater in Meridiani Planum, a plain near the equator, is no exception.
The paper, by Steven W Squyres, a Cornell astronomer, and more than 30 colleagues, summarises information that has been released over the past several years, and can itself be summarised in two words, wet and windy. As in, water and wind have altered the terrain around the crater as they have done elsewhere, suggesting that the processes are regional in scope. The impact that formed the crater (which was originally about 2,000 feet in diameter) ejected sedimentary rocks and exposed layers of sediment along the rim. But there is much evidence of wind erosion, the crater has widened to about 2,500 feet, forming indentations and promontories along the rim, and ejected rocks outside have been planed down, leaving smooth terrain. Opportunity examined rocks near the rim and a 30-foot deep section at a spot named Duck Bay. As in explorations of two other craters, spherules of hematite, a form of iron oxide, were found within the rocks and on the surface.   

Henry Fountain
NYT News Service

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