Could we engineer Rudolph the Green-nosed Reindeer?

18 December 2011

Question

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?

Answer

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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