Artist's Glowing, Live Rabbit Creation Causes Fuss

ByABC News
September 18, 2000, 4:13 PM

Sept. 19 -- In regular light, Alba appears like any other furry white rabbit. But place her under a black light, and her eyes, whiskers and fur glow an otherworldly green.

She could have been a perfect prop for Jefferson Airplanes hallucinogenic 1966song, White Rabbit, but Albas co-creator, artist Eduardo Kac, holds much more lofty intentions for this glow-in-the-dark rabbit.

[Alba] highlights the fact that transgenic animals are regular creatures that are as much part of social life as any other life form, writes Kac on his Web site devoted to the rabbit project. Kac is an assistant professor of art and technology at the School of Art Institute of Chicago.

Scientists Call Project Frivolous

Kac intended Albas birth in February to spark a debate about the project itself, and about the practice of manipulating genes in animals for research. Then he hoped to adopt Alba and take her into his home with his wife and daughter. Kac says the entire project, which he has dubbed GFP Bunny (for green fluorescent protein bunny) is designed to combine biotechnology, private family life and the social domain of public opinion into a single furry symbol.

But so far, it seems Kacs first objective has overshadowed the others. Scientists at the National Institute of Agronomic Research in France, which created the rabbit for Kac, are hesitating to release the rabbit to him and his family due to protests over its creation.

Animal rights activists claim the project is a needless and abusive manipulation of an animal, while scientists who work with the fluorescent proteins have dismissed the project as interesting but silly.

Theres nothing dangerous about it, as far as we know, says Woodland Hastings, a biologist at Harvard University and co-discoverer of the jellyfishs glowing gene and its function. But the project is rather frivolous. There are many more important things you can do with these genes.