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The first gene-modified rhesus monkey

This year, Researchers introduced Americans to the first gene-modified rhesus monkey named ANDi. Andi, which stands for inserted DNA spelled backwards, was born at Oregon Regional Primate Research Center at Oregon Health Sciences University. For the first time, scientists have modified the DNA of a primate species, whose genetic coding varies from people by only slightly more than 1 percent (Onion 1). ANDi was endowed with a gene for fluorescence. The fluorescence gene was extracted from a jellyfish and inserted into the embryonic material that eventually gave rise to ANDi (Jelliffe 1).

Numerous Americans are not familiar with the topic of Andi because many sources of the media such as the news, the paper, and even magazines have only briefly touched base on such an issue that should be well known to Americans and could really have an impact on the world of science and medicine. First, it is imperative to inform people about the rhesus monkey and its origin. The rhesus monkey is actually the genus Maraca, related to managbeys, mandrills, and baboons. All but one of the 19 species are found in Asia from Afghanistan, to Japan, the Philippines and Borneo.

They are highly intelligent and display a variety of calls and facial expressions. The rhesus monkey has been widely used in medical and other scientific experiences; the Rh blood factor, found in humans as well as monkeys is named for it (Colombia Encyclopedia). ANDi was born on October 2, 2000. Before the miracle of ANDi, the Oregon researchers used a genetically modified, noninfectious virus to carry the gene into over 200 monkey eggs. A father monkeys sperm was injected, a number of hours later, into the eggs, fertilizing the eggs that produced 40 embryos.

After a few days, the embryos were transferred to 20 surrogate female rhesus monkeys. Out of the 20 that were transferred only five pregnancies resulted. Three male babies were born, while two infants were stillborn. ANDi was the only monkey that proved to have the modified gene. The jellyfish gene that was added to ANDi has no medical value in itself, but it can serve as a dramatic marker since it makes the cells of an animal glow green when exposed to fluorescent black light.

To insert the fluorescent gene into ANDi, scientist used a non-infectious viral vector to carry the genetic material into a rhesus monkey oocyte, or egg. As the vector penetrates the egg, the carrier molecules are shed, leaving the new material behind to join the DNA. Dr. Gerald Schatten, who led the research at the primate center said, the jellyfish gene was used because it is known to be harmless and because it is easily detectable(qtd. by Laino).

Eventually, Schatten also mention, Scientist hope to insert other types of harmless genetic markers that can be tracked with magnetic markers tat can be tracked with magnetic resonance or PET scans. If successful, doctors might be able to monitor the developmental events that lead to many diseases (CNN 4). The ANDi experiment is essential for everyone in the nation to know about for the mere reason that it may lead to more specific research on many diseases and illnesses. For example, new treatments for diseases such as Parkinsons, diabetes, and breast cancer could speed up the development with ANDi.

However, to every positive or hopeful process comes a negative or controversy along side of it. With the insertion of gene splicing into the primates many Americans fear that human gene splicing many eventually lead to selective breeding wherein parents will pick and choose which genes their children do or do not have (Jelliffe 1). Some Americans feel that science should not be meddling in the gene pool. That it is not up to the parents to choose the genes that their child should have, but up to God on what the child will look like.

While other Americans feel that being able to pick what genes could go to their child would be rather hopeful. The reason while Americans would feel hopeful is because some Americans may have characteristics that their child may inherit. Characteristics that can be inherited are such as illnesses as High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, and even the HIV virus. By allowing families to choose what gene is inherited would limit their child to a rough childhood as well as adulthood.

The choosing of genes will not be happening any time soon because it is very risky. Dominic Well, a reader in transgenic biology at Imperial College carrying out research into gene therapy for muscular dystrophy, said of the ANDi work: This sort of technology would be totally forbidden in humans because of the risk in damaging human genes (CNN 4). Another controversy that the researchers are face with is the animal rights activist. Animal right activist have been around protesting every since the first experiment was conducted on the first primate.

Mr. Peter Wood, a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said, Meddling with the building blocks of life is extremely dangerous. It goes right to the core of the research philosophy, which is I can do with animals as I please. I can even change their physiology(CNN 1). Sue Mayer of GeneWatch UK also feels that experimentation on animals is wrong. She stated, Experimentation on primates is particularly problematic because they are closer to us, because we know they are much more likely to suffer in similar ways to us (Meek 1).

Many feel that it is cruel to inject a normal healthy breathing animal with a disease that was not given to them at birth. Numerous Americans also feel that people should really consider these poor helpless animals that were once free of disease becoming ill within a week all for the cause of science. Is it justification for the suffering of these animals? Apparently, more Americans feel that it does justify the cause. One primates life for a cure that may seem inevitable to many hopeful Americans is all the justification that is needed.

Several Americans, who have a serious incurable illness, are very familiar with animal rights activist who protests against the use of animals in experiments. Many of the sick feel that the animal right activist should put themselves in their shoes to see and feel what they go through in a day with their illness, and determine whether or not if it is right to use animals in science. What would that animal rights activist do if one day someone in their family or a love one becomes ill with an incurable disease and their only hope for a cure is experimentation on animals.

Would the activist then stop the protesting or would they continue their parading and chanting of its so-called immorality? That is something that these individuals should think about when they hold signs and taunt the doctors for using animals in research. If the ANDi research was not conducted and was not addressed to the public (even though it was not in the mind of the media as such a hot topic) some people would have been clueless to this rhesus monkey named ANDi.

Also, if the issue was not made public, an enormous amount of people who have been losing hope for a cure for some illnesses such as Parkinsons Disease would have gave up, but with the announcement of ANDi hope for people with illnesses are now increasing. Science has come along way since the fist experimentation in 1976-a mouse. I believe that with the advancement of technology and the use of animals in the research of science that cures for many illnesses will be establish in the near future. If we did not use animals in research such diseases as Diabetes would have never been more treatable.

The reason why I chose such a magnificent topic was because I wanted to educate people on how the science of technology is finding more ways of increasing the odds. Odds that maybe 30, 20, or even ten years ago were very minimal rate. ANDi is a magnificent discovery that will not only help those who are desperately in need for a cure of a deadly illness, but also for those individuals in the entire world to help broaden their eyes as well as their knowledge on such a incredible and promising discovery.

If the ANDi program was never rooted what hope would these individuals have left? A year ago scientist at the same Oregon research center reported they had cloned the first monkey by embryo splitting named Tetra which reportedly is doing fine (ABC 3). There is talk about one day mating the two. The creation of ANDi will more than likely be patented in the future, and more than likely we can expect more discoveries form the Oregon Primate Center in the near future.

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