sea horses are VN’s first engineered animals
HA NOI — Under the blue
light of a fluorescent lamp, 108 striped sea horses glitter like gold. These sea
horses are worth their weight in gold - literally: they are the first
genetically engineered animals to be created in Viet Nam.
Today they are less than
two weeks old and are no bigger than matchsticks.
These sea horses were born
using the "gene-shooting method" pioneered in this country by Phan Kim
Ngoc and his colleagues at Viet Nam National University’s College of Science,
in HCM City.
"Gene GFP, a
light-emitting gene extracted from jellyfish, was combined with tiny grains of
gold. Then these grains of gold were injected into sea horse egg cells. The gold
mixed with the jellyfish genes was incorporated into the cells of the sea
horses, which glittered when they came into being," said Ngoc, the head of
Ngoc and his colleagues
have spent three years developing the technique and have more than 20 failures
under their belt.
They tried using
techniques such as micro-injection without success. "Egg cells live in a
watery environment so their membranes are harder and tougher. Based on
experiments that have been performed around the world, we decided to use ‘gene
shooting’, which generated a force strong enough to bring the light-emitting
gene into the egg cells," said Ngoc, the leader of the first studies in
gene therapy in 2002.
experimented with a number of animals, but it was with sea horses that they
earned their stripes.
light-emitting genes into sea horse eggs we have made the next generation
literally glitter," said Ngoc.
modified animals mark our first success with gene technology on animals in Viet
Nam," said associate professor Pham Thanh Ho, a leading bio-technology
"This success will be
very useful to medicine. The technique can be used to treat and replace people’s
negative genes with good genes. And in animals it can be used to produce cows
that produce more milk, pigs that are leaner and hens that are more prolific
layers. It can also be used to preserve the rare genes [of endangered species]
or for cleaning the environment," said Ho.
technology can also be used to treat incurable diseases," added Ngoc, who
said he would now apply the technique to treating diabetes.
"We are making
experiments on mice with a view to changing the mouse’s original cells into
pancreas cells which produce insulin for diabetic people," said Ngoc.
"We will also look into ways to apply the technique to breeding
animals," Ngoc said. — VNS