What do you get when you cross a jellyfish with a bunny rabbit? Glow in the dark bunnies.
No, seriously. That’s not a joke. It’s not even science fiction. Scientists at the University of Hawaii have collaborated with a team of Turkish researchers to breed a litter of neon rabbits. By injecting luminescent proteins from a jellyfish into rabbit embryos, they produced two bunnies that hop, twitch their noses and radiate a bright green under florescent light.
These are not the first glowing bunnies in existence. Alba, the original “light hare” was conceived back in 2000 by a French artist and scientist as an art installation. Rabbits aren’t even the only species that have been genetically engineered glow in the dark. Scientists have created pigs, sheep, monkeys, puppies and kittens that light up like mammalian lightening bugs under black lights. And you can readily purchase transgenic fish in six brilliant colors under the brand name GloFish.
Nor is the bunnies’ glow just for show. It is intended to serve as a sort of guiding light to trace genetic transfers. If the animal glows, scientists know that a transfer of genes has been successful. Stefan Moisyadi, the lead researcher on the project, says he hopes the bright bunnies and a herd of shining sheep that will be born in his lab later this year will one day lead to cheaper medicines and cures for diseases like hemophilia, Alzheimer’s and HIV.
Glowing animals can also help track pollutants as they travel through the body. Bio-luminescent Zebra Fish bred to light up in places where chemical pollutants are present in their cells are already being used to help assess the health impact of environmental pollution.