Fluorescent feet: These monkeys inherited a genetic modification that makes them glow (insets) under ultraviolet light.
Primates pass a fluorescence gene to their offspring.
Source: “Generation of transgenic non-human primates with germline transmission”
Erika Sasaki, Hiroshi Suemizu, et al.
Nature 459: 523-527
Results: Scientists transferred a gene derived from jellyfish into marmoset monkeys, causing them to produce a protein that makes them glow green. The monkeys then passed the gene for the fluorescent protein to their offspring, which glow as well.
Why it matters: Genetically engineered mice have become common and vital tools for biomedical research. Now it’s possible, for the first time, to make genetically engineered strains of primates. Scientists could use the modified animals to study neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, which cannot be adequately reproduced in rodents.
Methods: To create the transgenic monkeys, researchers injected a virus carrying the gene for green fluorescent protein, or GFP, into 91 marmoset embryos. Eighty healthy transgenic embryos were then transplanted into surrogate mothers, which gave birth to five glowing offspring. Three glowing second-generation marmosets have been born since April.
Next steps: The researchers are further refining their approach to deliver larger pieces of DNA and to block the action of specific genes. Both techniques will be necessary to develop marmoset models of human disease.