Glowing Dog May Help Cure Alzheimer's, Parkinson's

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Tegon, a small female beagle, has become the world's first glowing dog. Scientists say her unique genes may be the key to finding a cure for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s.

In 2009 Tegon was born at the hands of South Korean scientists who altered her by inserting a “glowing” gene into her system. When Tegon is given a special antibiotic, she transforms into a fluorescent green shade while under ultra-violet lights.

The beauty of the discovery, the scientists say, is not in her color, but in the way that this gene can be turned off by ingesting certain drugs. They believe that this same technique can be used to deactivate certain genes known to cause deadly diseases.

According to to the research team, the gene that was inserted to create a glow could be replaced with genes that are known to trigger diseases such as Alzheimer's. By artificially inducing these diseases scientists can work to learn how to better control them, or deactivate them, with the use of certain antibiotic drugs.

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"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," said researcher Lee Byeong-chun to the Yonhap news agency.

The reason that a dog was chosen for this experiment is that canines share 268 illnesses with humans. They are susceptible to many of the same complex diseases as we are and live among us in our household environments. Furthermore, dogs tend to metabolize drugs in the same way as humans making the testing of treatments more transferable between the two species.

Head researcher Byeong-Chun Lee of Seoul National University and his team have worked for four years and spent $3 million to arrive at this discovery.

The study was published online in the June edition of the Genesis journal.

Updated 8/5/2013

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