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World first: Japanese scientists create transgenic monkeys

world Updated: May 28, 2009 09:48 IST

AFP
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In a controversial achievement, Japanese scientists announced on today they had created the world's first transgenic primates, breeding monkeys with a gene that made the animals' skin glow a fluorescent green.

The exploit opens up exciting prospects for medical researchers, they said.

It could eventually lead to lab monkeys that replicate some of humanity's most devastating diseases, providing a new model for exploring how these disorders are caused and how they may be cured.

"Great advances in pre-clinical research can be expected using these models," the team said.

But other voices warned of a potential ethics storm, brewed by fears that technology used on our closest animal relatives could be turned to create genetically engineered humans.

In a study published in the British journal Nature, a team led by Erika Sasaki of the Central Institute for Experimental Animals at Keio University reported on experiments on common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus), a small monkey native to Brazil.

They introduced a foreign gene, tucked inside a virus, into marmoset embryos that were then nurtured in a bath of sucrose.