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The first transgenic primate

A transgenic primate has been successfully created for the first time - the rhesus macaque carries the GFP gene but doesn't glow in the dark.

By | January 12, 2001

A transgenic primate has been successfully created for the first time, according to research published in 12 January Science. The monkey, which was born in October last year, is a rhesus macaque and carries the reporter gene encoding GFP (green fluorescent protein).

Anthony Chan and colleagues injected a genetically modified viral vector into the space between the outer and inner membrane of unfertilised rhesus monkey eggs. A few hours later the eggs were injected with sperm, then allowed to grow for a few days before implantation into a surrogate female.

The technique was tried on 224 monkey eggs. Forty embryos were created but only five could be implanted. Two of the monkeys were stillborn, yet showed evidence of GFP expression, and three were born healthy. The GFP gene was detected in only one of these healthy monkeys, named ANDi ('inserted DNA' backwards).

But ANDi does not yet express GFP — he doesn't glow green – although the researchers point out that some transgenic animals do not express the transgene until up to a year after birth.

Professor Gerald Shatten, who led the research team at Oregon Health Sciences University, said that the same technique could be used for research into human medical conditions. But until researchers find more efficient ways of introducing transgenes at specific sites into primates, they will be of limited use as medical models.

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