Add Marker Gene To Rhesus Monkey That Glows Green
PORTLAND, ORE., JAN. 11, 2001 (CBS News) - Researchers have created the
first genetically modified primate in the world, a baby rhesus monkey whose
name -- ANDi -- stands for "inserted DNA" spelled backward.
Born in October, the male monkey carries a tiny extra bit of DNA in a gene
introduced as a marker that can be seen under a microscope because it
actually glows green, researchers at Oregon Health Sciences University said.
Lead researcher Gerald Schatten tells CBS News Correspondent Lou Miliano
this discovery will open doors for "making the models that will actually
eradicate so many of the diseases we fear today."
The creation of ANDi was described in the Friday issue of the journal Science.
Researchers hope they now can introduce other genes in rhesus monkeys that
could trigger a host of human diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, breast
cancer or HIV in order to find a way to block them at the genetic level.
The technique for inserting the gene has been used for more than a quarter
century in mice, but comparing a mouse to a human being has limits, said
Schatten. He is leading the research at the university's Oregon Regional
Because monkeys are close cousins to humans in terms of DNA, they may give
scientists a better picture of how human disease develops, he said.
"I think we're at an extraordinary moment in the history of humans,"
Schatten said Wednesday.
A year ago, Schatten reported the first monkey successfully cloned by embryo
splitting. That monkey is named Tetra. ANDi and his surrogate mother, as
well as Tetra, remain healthy, Schatten said.
ANDi received an extra gene while he was still an unfertilized egg.
Schatten, lead author Anthony W.S. Chan and other researchers modified and
then fertilized more than 200 rhesus monkey eggs. Forty embryos were
produced, and resulted in five pregnancies and three live births. Of the
three baby monkeys, only ANDi proved to have the modified genes.
Dr. Ray Greek, spokesman for the Physicians Committee for Responsible
Medicine, said it was unnecessary to proceed with modifying a primate to
introduce a human disease when such work can be done at the cellular level.
"I think it's going to get them a lot of press," Greek said, "and will
eventually translate into getting OHSU a lot of money."
"But 20 years from now will your children be safer from cancer, heart
disease, etc., as a result of this? The odds are astronomically against it."
Schatten said the modification should help researchers find cures for human
diseases faster, eventually ending the need to use animals. He also said the
technique will limit the number of monkeys needed because test animals can
actually be genetically designed, rather than creating a large pool of test
animals in hopes that one will have the desired characteristics.
"Researchers around the world believe that a lot of diseases like cancers,
like mental illnesses like diabetes and other degenerative diseases could
actually be cured, and cured within just a few years," Schatten said.
"I don't think any of us would want to make primates sick unless it would
truly accelerate the day that diseases can be eradicated."
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