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View Full Version : Scientists make a butterfly glow


iGav
Mar 11, 2004, 10:24 AM
pretty trippy....

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3499484.stm

Mr. Anderson
Mar 11, 2004, 10:27 AM
So that's silly...eye's are used to see light, right? So by making the eye's glow in the dark the butterfly is now going to be seeing light all the time....poor butterfly....

D

Josh
Mar 11, 2004, 10:37 AM
Its eyes only glow when its dark though, so at daytime it wont have a problem.

Plus, at night time, they typicaly fly towards bright lights anyway, and any electrical lamp it encounters will be much brighter in comparison to its eyes, so it will easily see it.

Perhaps it wont even know its eyes are glowing if there is nothing right up in its face to reflect the ambiance. Or if there is not a thick glowing layer directly over its pupil(s) (I dont know how that particular insects eyes work).

agreenster
Mar 11, 2004, 10:41 AM
Thats some crazy stuff.

Now if they would only spend as much time and money trying to cure cancer...




Wait, did I already say that somewhere?? :D

Dros
Mar 11, 2004, 10:58 AM
I think it is a little misleading. See how they say it is a gene for fluoresence? They'll glow a bit if there is a strong deep blue light to activate the fluoresence, but they won't be like little headlights. The odd thing about the article is that people have been making transgenic insects that glow for years. Recently they developed techniques for making almost any insect carry a foreign gene, and the way they identify if it works is to add this "eye fluoresence" gene along with the gene they are interested in.

So it sounds like this group took an existing technique that had been applied to mosquito and other disease-carrying insects (which is why they developed the technique in the first place, to study ways to eradicate pests) and stuck the basic fluoresence vector in the butterfly and published it in a very obscure journal and now it is on CNN as being interesting.

Attached are some other glowing eyes -- different colors even!

Josh
Mar 11, 2004, 11:04 AM
Thats some crazy stuff.

Now if they would only spend as much time and money trying to cure cancer...


They do - infact, they spend much more time and money trying to cure cancer than they spent with that butterfly.

Curing cancer is not something that enough time and money can just "buy".

It takes research on top of research....little steps at a time, learning, expirimenting, studying, then researching it all over again.

You cannot hurry research, nor can you buy scientific breakthroughs.

wdlove
Mar 11, 2004, 11:35 AM
A very interesting research article. It is all of these small projects that eventually lead to the really big breakthroughs. The understanding of how the genetic code works is very critical to disease cure and eventual prevention.

bryanc
Mar 11, 2004, 11:44 AM
I think many of you are missing the point here. What the researchers were trying to do is figure out how the patterns on a butterfly's wings are encoded by it's DNA. What they did was put a bit of DNA that encodes a fluorescent protein in random places, hoping that one of the random insertions would result in the fluorescent protein coming under the control of one of these patterning systems. What they show here is an example of an insertion that gets expressed in the eyes (possibly interesting, if the regulatory elements driving it's expression in the eyes are novel).

Figuring out how gene expression is regulated (i.e., how patterns of specific gene activity are controlled) will not only help us understand how the patterns of pigments on butterfly wings develop, but will also help cure disease like cancer (which results from the mis-regulation of genes).

As a scientist, I often struggle to explain to lay-people why their tax dollars should be spent on my esoteric research (I have fish and nematode worms with the same green fluorescent protein inserted into their genomes). To someone who doesn't understand how we use research organisms to develop technologies and do experiments investigating the basic biology, spending millions of dollars of tax money making glowing fruit flies or really messed up zebrafish embryos seems like an enormous waste. Especially when CNN and other media outlets seem to take every opportunity to highlight the most obscure and 'weird-science' project they can. But this is all really valuable stuff, and our society benefits enormously from these efforts, even though most people can't think of any use for green-eyed butterflies.

Cheers

agreenster
Mar 11, 2004, 11:47 AM
They do - infact, they spend much more time and money trying to cure cancer than they spent with that butterfly.

Curing cancer is not something that enough time and money can just "buy".

It takes research on top of research....little steps at a time, learning, expirimenting, studying, then researching it all over again.

You cannot hurry research, nor can you buy scientific breakthroughs.

Yeah yeah, I know. Just being annoying. Its my lot in life.

NP3
Mar 17, 2004, 11:52 AM
Humm...i wonder how long it will be before we see some startup company selling these things.....like those glow in the dark fish last year...:)


Humm...genetically manipulated Butterflies, only $10 a box....

rainman::|:|
Mar 17, 2004, 12:51 PM
well i'm going to be the genetic-engineering alarmist per usual... it's very interesting research, and has definite scientific value, but someone brought up the mass-commercialization of these... it'll probably wind up happening. It's fine when they tamper with genetic code in labs, but they have this habit (like with the fish) of selling them for entertainment to raise money for the research... granted this is how many scientific areas are funded (like robotics), but in the case of genetic engineering, i think it's very dangerous for the ecosystem. What if they sold these? They start breeding, become introduced into the ecosystem, naturalize, and 50 generations later, the butterfly develops some odd genetic trait that makes it poisonous to it's predators, or more agressive, or changes it's behaviour... and the food chain gets disrupted, etc. My point is, playing god is all fun and games until we start letting our tweaked creations enter nature... that's where the unknowns exist. we really need to learn a LOT more about the complexity of genetics and behaviour before we start letting these things out.

paul

gwuMACaddict
Mar 17, 2004, 07:47 PM
we really need to learn a LOT more about the complexity of genetics and behaviour before we start letting these things out.

i agree... but i dont expect that to be an issue here, i get the impression that the researchers who deal with this stuff understand completely the implications of letting things like this out. like wdlove said, it is steps like this that lead to bigger breakthroughs later :)

kphinney
Mar 17, 2004, 08:04 PM
...and if a researcher someday makes a connection between what We (human kind) learned about transgenic glow-eyed butterflies and the viable cessation of cancer? First you crawl, then you walk.
Disallowing manipulation is condemning many unfortunate people to less than the quality of life they deserve. As humans we evolve. Essentially we mutate ourselves. Learning is a mutation. Loosing your hair at a ripe old age is nothing more than a gene switching off. A cancer can be one single gene that doesn't switch off it's growth cycle when it should. I'd like to think that someday we'll find it and learn how to shut down that expression.
Uh - time for my cig.

MrMacMan
Mar 17, 2004, 11:44 PM
Wake me up when you can splice my genetic code to change me the color of my current mood.


Gah...

Total waste...

'we make colorful butterflys' and if they were released into the wild they would die because everyone can see NEON! :o