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Name: Joe
Status: student
Grade: 9-12
Location: IN
Country: USA
Date: Fall 2012


Question:
I was wondering if anyone would possibly know how to get a few samples of glowing jellyfish genes. I am a sophmore in high school that is bored out of my mind and want to do something totally new. I Sangyo take the genes and put a little bit of them in five bottles of cool water or whatever temperature they are supposed to be in and feed this to my future sunflowers. I have not started growing them yet. I really want to create my own race of glowing flowers. Imagine this, take a dark light and running over a flower and they start to glow. I would love to do something to help get the science of agriculture somewhere that its never been. Thank you and please reply. Hypothesis: If I feed flowers jellyfish genes, then it will grow to glow.



Replies:
Joe,

You are probably referring to genes coding for proteins such as Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) or similar variants. It is certainly possible to buy these genes from a variety of laboratory suppliers (albeit at fairly significant cost), and it may be possible for you to get some small samples from a cellular biology lab at a local university.

That being said, you may want to re-examine the premise of your experiment. A variety of species have been genetically altered to express GFP in their cells, but that in general cannot be done by simply feeding the organism with raw DNA. DNA is a very large and relatively delicate molecule. It is very challenging to cause DNA outside of a cell to penetrate intact into the nucleus and thus start being expressed. Most DNA outside of cells (and outside of cell nuclei) are degraded by various proteins and will quickly be destroyed.

The way most scientists produce a transgenic organism containing functional GFP genes is by modifying the genes of a single cell or group of cells very early on in development. They use specialized techniques in the laboratory to deliver the DNA to the cell, often using some variant of an engineered virus or a specialized lipid to aid the entry of the DNA to the cell. If you do this when the cell is at the zygote stage or shortly thereafter, natural cell division will cause the organism to eventually develop into an adult where many or all of its cells express GFP. The details are sometimes more complex in plants (the procedure is widely used in mice), but has been well elucidated.

In the case of sunflowers in particular, I would encourage you to read the article linked below. Scientists in 2001 in Germany were able to insert GFP genes into sunflowers as part of a modified protocol. You may find it interesting reading.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11708653

In any event, if you are interested in this kind of research, I would encourage you to contact your local university and inquire about research opportunities in this field. You will have an opportunity to carry out this kind of research with much more resources and training than you might be able to do on your own. Best of luck in your future investigations!

S. Unterman Ph.D.



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