The Science Behind Bioluminescent Rats

Adriana Leiss, Reporter


Imagine being able to copy and paste DNA. Scientists would be able to create all new ways to treat diverse kinds of hereditary diseases. What if I told you, it is possible, and this kind of technology is called CRISPR. Since the creation of this technology, it has opened so many doors in the science community. It allows you to take out any piece of DNA inside a cell or organism and replace it with a different variant of DNA. Many scientists use this technology to treat diseases like cancer, hemoglobinopathies, diabetes and many others.

On the downside, scientists have started trying to mix 2 separate animal DNA together which could end up causing problems if not done correctly.

One example of this is the creation of bioluminescence rats. The cause of the bioluminescence inside the rats is from an inserted gene found in a species of bioluminescent jellyfish. The gene has a protein that glows green when hit by ultraviolet light.

Scientists have created these new species of rats for many reasons. The first reason is that when the rat gets older or starts developing a tumor it starts to rapidly glow and as it ages it glows more brightly. This allows scientists to study the development of tumors and diseases in real time. Providing them with much information about the growth process of tumors.

By creating these rats, it has provided useful information on the next generation of gene therapies including the p16 gene which plays a role in aging and cancer suppression. They are using this information to treat cancers, tumors, and other hereditary illnesses.

Scientists are still performing experiments trying to understand more about the DNA inside organisms. With the use of CRISPR technology, we should see an increase in the development of medicines used to treat many distinct types of genetic diseases that without this technology would be nearly impossible to create and understand.