Science Questions

Could we engineer Rudolph the Green-nosed Reindeer?

Sun, 18th Dec 2011

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Michael Patella, Facebook asked:

With the discovery of bioluminescence and fluorescent proteins, could we theoretically genetically engineer a reindeer so it could have a glowing green nose? What do you think?


Helen - You would want to basically take the glowing gene from a jellyfish of some sort, and I'm sure there are some out there that grow redor are coloured red.  Red is a bit rare in the deep sea but there are some fish in fact that produce red light.  [You could] take the gene that produces that light in those species in the deep and stick it in a reindeer’s nose.  We’ve done it with mice.  We’ve made glowing green mice.  I don't see why we shouldn’t be able to make a glowing red reindeer then.

Chris -   There is green fluorescent protein which is found in jellyfish, and then there's a tweak that scientists made to make red fluorescent protein, so the green equivalent in red.  So it could be expressed.  I think there probably are gene sequences that could direct the gene to only turn on in the nose, so you probably could end up with Rudolph.

Helen -   I'm not saying we should direct our research money to such a frivolous event but it might be quite fun!


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