Sunday, November 3, 2013

Animal patents, huh? Ornamental fish

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

So, let me count the ways we breed in our most sophisticated labs…. We have KO and KI mice. These are mice bred with a gene that is knocked-out or knocked in for the purposes of testing drugs. Remember, the CISD2-KNOCKOUT MICE, the ones bred to exhibit a mitochondrial breakdown and dysfunction, to model the Wolfman Syndrome of premature aging? (Yes, that was the basis of what Brad Pit showed us in The curious case of Benjamin Button, only that was just motion picture.) Remember also the ATRN AND ATRNL1 DOUBLE GENE-KNOCKOUT MICE modeling heart disease, and the NRIPKNOCKOUT MICE modeling muscular dysfunction? Yes, all those mice are circulating around the world for testing new molecules which might reverse, control or attenuate certain diseases that plague humans everywhere.

Well, there’s lots mo’ to this transgenic story. There is plenty of variation and creativity here, both in terms of the diversity of the knockouts or knockins, and the species of animals concerned. The difficulty lies only in how many and how much you can handle at a time…
 Take for instance the ornamental fluorescent fish marketed as GLOFISH®. These are also genetically modified creatures, designed to glow under ultraviolet or blue light in fish tanks. The fish species concerned are Zebrafish (Zebra danio). They have a gene knockedin that encodes various fluoresecent proteins such as the green fluorescent gene protein (GFP) found in jelly fish (Aequorea victoria), the green fluorescent gene protein (GPF) found in sea pansies (Renilla reiformis),  the dsRed fluorescent gene protein found in mushroom coral (Discosoma), the eqFP611 fluorescent gene protein found in sea anemones (Entacmea quadricolor), the RTMS5 fluorescent gene protein found in stony coral (Montipora efflorescens), the Dronpa fluorescent gene protein found in chalice  coral (Pectiniidae), the kindling fluorescent protein (KFP) found in Venus hair anemones (Anemonia sulcata), the eosFP gene found in open brain coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii), and the Dendra fluorescent gene protein found in actocoral (Dendronephthya).  Thus,  depending on the fluorescent gene knockedin, the fish glow in various colors such as green (Electric Green Glofish® ),  red (Starfire Red Glofish®), blue (Cosmic Blue Glofish ®), purple (Galactic Purple Glofish®), etc.


Below you will find the abstract for this genetically modified (GM) zebrafish patent:

Four zebrafish gene promoters, which are skin specific, muscle specific, skeletal muscle specific and ubiquitously expressed respectively, were isolated and ligated to the 5' end of the EGFP gene. When the resulting chimeric gene constructs were introduced into zebrafish, the transgenic zebrafish emit green fluorescence under a blue light or ultraviolet light according to the specificity of the promoters used. Thus, new varieties of ornamental fish of different fluorescence patterns, e.g., skin fluorescence, muscle fluorescence, skeletal muscle-specific and/or ubiquitous fluorescence, are developed.  [Abstract WO0049150 - Chimeric gene constructs for generation of fluorescent transgenic ornamental fish]

 PS. In 2003, the FDA cleared the sale of Glofish® in the US on the grounds these fish are not used for food purposes, and therefore pose no public health risk. In 2005, the lawsuit filed by The Center for Food Safety to block the sale of Glofish® in the US was found without merit. The Center argued that the sale of Glofish® would set precedence and open the floodgates for nonfood genetically modified animals.

Beyond the ornamental… and for what it’s worth… there are other experimental uses of fluorescence as bio-markers for the detection of pollution and chemicals, only this FISH (Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization)  is hardly sentient… In fact, that’s a whole other patent species… (!)


-        The Center for food Safety

-          The curious case of Benjamin ButtonThe curious case of Benjamin Button.(2008) directed by David Fincher, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.  Based on the novel by Scott Fitzgerald
-         - Beskid, O., Binkova, B., Dusek, Z., Rossner, P., Solansky, I. Kalina, I., Zidzik, J., Popov, T.A., Farmer, P.B.  and R.J. Sram (2007) Chromosomal aberrations by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) -- biomarker of exposure to carcinogenic PAHs. Journal of Mutation Research, Jul 1:620(1-2): 62-70.

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