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Dog's glow-in-the-dark effect can be turned on or off

Image: Glow-in-the-dark paw
Photos demonstrate the inducible glow-in-the-dark effect in a genetically modified dog: The left images shows the dog's paw in normal light (upper left) and under ultraviolet light (lower left) after doxycycline is added to the dog's food. The right-hand images show the dog's paw in normal and ultraviolet light after scientists stopped administering the drug.Lee et al. / Genesis
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Scientists say they have bred a dog that glows under ultraviolet light when an antibiotic is added to its food.

The technique could be used to help find cures for human diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

Scientists started cloning glow-in-the-dark puppies two years ago by inserting genes from other species that produce fluorescent proteins, such as jellyfish and coral.

In the journal Genesis, researchers from Seoul National University report that they produced a dog that expresses the green fluorescent protein gene when it eats food containing a doxycycline antibiotic. When the drug is no longer added to the food, the glow-in-the-dark effect fades away.

The genetically modified female beagle, named Tegon, was born in 2009.

"The creation of Tegon opens new horizons since the gene injected to make the dog glow can be substituted with genes that trigger fatal human diseases," Yonhap quoted lead researcher Byeong-Chun Lee as saying.

Because there are 268 illnesses that humans and dogs have in common, creating dogs that artificially show such symptoms could aid treatment methods for diseases that afflict humans, Lee said.

Lee and his colleagues said the key to their research was to find a way to turn on the glow-in-the-dark effect by adding the drug to the food. Other methods can produce dogs that glow, but "the uncontrollable expression often results in unwanted outcomes," they said.

Yonhap said the researchers spent roughly 3.2 billion won ($3 million) to create the dog and conduct the necessary verification tests.

More about glow-in-the-dark organisms:

This report includes information from Reuters and msnbc.com.