Genetically Modified Organism: Glowfish

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GloFish were originally zebrafish, a tropical fish from the Minnow family. They originate in rivers of Himalayas and Eastern India. Zebrafish measure three centimeters long and were name for their distinct blue stripes on the side of their bodies.

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In 1999, Zebrafish were genetically modified with fluorescent by Scientist at the National Singapore University. Dr. Zhiyuan Gong and his colleagues were working with a gene that encodes the green fluorescent protein (GFP), originally extracted from a jellyfish, that naturally produced bright green fluorescence (“StateMaster – Encyclopedia: Glofish”). They inserted the gene into a zebrafish embryo, allowing it to integrate into the zebrafish’s genome, which caused the fish to be brightly fluorescent under both natural white light and ultraviolet light.

GloFish were intentionally developed to help fight pollution in water. The long-term goal for the scientists was to detect toxins in water so that polluted waterways could be identified and the local communities using those waterways could be protected. “The first step was to make them fluoresce all the time,” explains Alan Blake, co-founder and CEO of Texas-based Yorktown Technologies, which introduced GloFish to the home aquarium market in 2003. The fluorescing color in the fish, will signal that water is contaminated. A gene is inserted in one zebra fish embryo one time, and the fluorescence trait is then carried from generation to generation through traditional breeding. One of many advantages of using GloFish is that, they produce hundreds of offspring and grow at an extremely fast rate. Providing Scientists countless of GloFish to conduct their studies.

Because of their neon colors, GloFish became the first genetically modified animal to be commercialized.

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