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Fluorescent Monkeys Cast Light On Human Disease 174

Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that a team of Japanese scientists has integrated a new gene for green fluorescent protein into the common marmoset, causing them to glow green under ultraviolet light, creating second-generation, glow-in-the-dark monkeys in what could be a powerful new tool in human disease research. Though primates modified to generate a glowing protein have been created before, these are the first to keep the change in their bloodlines. If a fluorescent protein gene can be introduced into the monkey genome and passed onto future generations, other genes could be too opening up a world of possibilities for medical research, such as the generation of specific monkey colonies containing genetic defects that mirror human diseases aiding efforts to cure such diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. However many people are likely to find the routine use of monkeys in medical research far less acceptable than that of rodents, drawing action from animal rights activists. 'I'm worried that these steps are being taken without any overall public discussion about whether we want to go down that road. We may find ourselves gradually drifting towards the genetic engineering of human beings,' says Dr David King, from the group Human Genetics Alert. '"Slippery slope" is a quite inadequate description of the process, because it doesn't happen passively. People push it forward.'"

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