A fluorescent rabbit is at the centre of a transatlantic tug of war
A mutant glow-in-the-dark rabbit is at the centre of a transatlantic tug of
war between an artist who dreamed her up and the French scientists who
Alba was born in February at the National Institute of Agronomic
Research (INRA) in Paris. Eduardo Kac planned to live with Alba in
a gallery in Avignon, and then take her to live with his family in Chicago. He
intended his green fluorescent bunny project to encapsulate the theme of
biotechnology and its relation to family life and public debate.
But the institute is refusing to hand her over.
In daylight, Alba looks like a normal albino rabbit. But each of her cells
contains the gene for a fluorescent protein taken from the jellyfish
Aequorea victoria. In blue light, her body glows bright green.
The French scientists used a gene that has a glow twice as strong
as normal, and inserted it into a fertilised rabbit egg cell.
Kac says the scientists did this "as a labour of love based on our mutual
understanding of the importance of developing this project. They know
my work and understand my commitment."
But that isn't the way the scientists see it. In fact, says Olivier
Réchauchère of INRA, they had been working on fluorescent rabbits for
18 months before Kac approached them. The work was part of their
research into techniques for tagging embryos.
Rechauchere says that while the scientists were initially prepared to let
Kac display a mutant rabbit in Avignon, at no point did they agree to him
taking her home.
The Avignon event was cancelled by the institute's director, following
concerns about the transport and security of a transgenic animal, and
protests from animal rights activists.
But Kac insists that he will not rest until he has the rabbit. "I want to care
for her and nurture her. It is very hard for me that she is still in France."
1536 GMT, 22 September 2000
Note by Eduardo Kac:
1) I have never met or corresponded with Mr. Olivier Réchauchère.
2) "at no point did they agree to him taking her home."
This is incorrect. The agreement from the beginning was that Alba would come home.
3) "they had been working on fluorescent rabbits for 18 months before Kac approached them"
They certainly had been working with transgenic rabbits before. That is precisely why I worked with them. I have never claimed Alba was the first transgenic rabbit. The first transgenic rabbit was created in the 1980s, but that is not the point. Scientists use GFP locally, to study specific topics. Alba was created with ubiquotous expression, under my request.
3) "The Avignon event was cancelled by the institute's director, following concerns about the transport and security of a transgenic animal, and protests from animal rights activists."
Perhaps the director was concerned with "transport and security of a transgenic animal". We don't know, because he never explained his decision. There were no protests from animal rights activists.
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