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Glowing dogs offer hope for human diseases

SOUTH Korean scientists say they have engineered four beagles that glow red using cloning techniques that could help develop cures for human diseases.

The four dogs, all named "Ruppy" - from the words "ruby" and "puppy" - look like typical beagles by daylight. But they glow red under ultraviolet light, and the dogs' nails and abdomens, which have thin skins, look red even to the naked eye.

Seoul National University professor Lee Byeong-chun, head of the research team, called them the world's first transgenic dogs carrying fluorescent genes, an achievement that goes beyond just the glowing novelty.

"What's significant in this work is not the dogs expressing red colors but that we planted genes into them," Lee said.

Scientists in the United States, Japan and in Europe have cloned fluorescent mice and pigs, but this would be the first time dogs with modified genes have been cloned successfully, Lee said.

His team took skin cells from a beagle, inserted fluorescent genes in them and put them into eggs before implanting them into a surrogate mother.

Six female beagles were born in December 2007, he said. Two died, but the four others survived.

The glowing dogs show that it is possible to insert genes with a specific trait, which could lead to implanting other genes that could help treat specific diseases in humans, Lee said.

He said his team has started to implant human disease-related genes in the course of dog cloning, saying that will help them find new treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's. He refused to provide further details, saying the research was still under way.


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