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Glowing dogs and positive reinforcement

090428-dog-glow-hlarg-7prp600x350There is a perfectly wild story in the news today about dogs that glow.  I’m not kidding you.  I wouldn’t make this up.  Those crazy South Korean geneticists have been at work again — you never know what they will do next.  This time they have cloned a litter of Beagles which glow red under ultraviolet light.

 

South Korean scientists say they have engineered four beagles that glow red using cloning techniques that could help develop cures for human diseases. The four dogs, all named “Ruppy” — a combination of the words “ruby” and “puppy” — look like typical beagles by daylight.

But they glow red under ultraviolet light, and the dogs’ nails and abdomens, which have thin skins, look red even to the naked eye.

Seoul National University professor Lee Byeong-chun, head of the research team, called them the world’s first transgenic dogs carrying fluorescent genes, an achievement that goes beyond just the glowing novelty.

“What’s significant in this work is not the dogs expressing red colors but that we planted genes into them,” Lee told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

 

This is the first time that dogs with modified genes have been successfully cloned.

 

Now, the purpose of doing this is to show that it is possible to successfully insert genes with one specific trait into cells.  This could lead to implanting other (non-fluorescent) genes that could help treat specific genes.  According to the scientists the team has begun implanting human disease-related genes in the course of the dog cloning.  This will supposedly help them find new treatments for genetic diseases such as Parkinson’s.  They refused to elaborate on their research.

 

Of course, this is getting into a controversial area.  Some people don’t like the idea of using animals, especially dogs, for this kind of research.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with cloning to reproduce a specific dog or try to improve the chance of reproducing a dog with very desirable skills, such as a drug-sniffing dog.  But I do start to have problems with cloning in order to give dogs specific diseases for research purposes.  I’m not sure how moral it is to clone dogs in order to give them a disease.  My personal opinion is that we can’t afford to forego all animal testing.  Without it we would be living in the dark ages as far as medicine and health care are concerned.  Something to think about.

 

box-largeIn other news, there’s a great article about the woman who trained Bo Obama, Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz, in USA Today.  The really interesting part of the article is that Sylvia-Stasiewicz discusses a bit about her training methods and she’s completely committed to positive reinforcement.  If you don’t know this term it means that she trains by using treats and praise and rewarding a dog when he does something desirable.  Positive reinforcement largely ignores a dog’s “bad” behavior so there’s no punishment or corrections, no pain or yelling.  It is, as the name suggests, a very positive approach to training dogs.

 

Positive reinforcement is already a popular training method.  It’s great to see it getting some attention.  Maybe this will encourage even more people to consider training classes or to find out about positive reinforcement.

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April 29, 2009 - Posted by | dogs, General, Pets | , , , , , , ,

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