Originally published in Beyond 2000, October 25, 2000.


In a bid to create a living work of art, an American man
has produced a fluorescent green rabbit.

"I will never forget the moment when I first held her in
my arms. My apprehensive anticipation was replaced
by joy and excitement," said co-creator of "Alba",
Eduardo Kac.

Why does the world need such a creation? It is all in
the name of "Transgenic Art" says Eduardo. In creating
the fluorescent rabbit he says, he endeavoured to
induce public debate about genetic manipulation of

Kac, an assistant professor of art and technology at
the School of Art Institute, Chicago. created the
unusual fluff-ball with the assistance of the National
Institute of Agronomic Research in France.

Kac, describes Alba as "a new art form based on the
use of genetic engineering to transfer natural or
synthetic genes to an organism, to create unique living beings," he said. Very lofty
aspirations indeed....

Alba appears to be like any other albino rabbit until she is placed under special black
lighting, which makes her whiskers, skin and fur go a fluorescent green. Her green hue is
caused by the gene EGFG (enhanced genetic fluorescent gene) which was modified to
make it twice as fluorescent and then inserted into the fertilised rabbit egg cell that was to
become Alba. The scientists did this by using a process called zygote microinjection,
introducing the EGFG which was isolated from a fluorescent protein of the jellyfish
Aequorea victoria.

EGFG, is found in a variety of sea creatures, and is known as bioluminescence. Deep sea
creatures evolved to produce their own glow due to the lack of sunlight below 100m.

Protein Bunny

The project dubbed "GFP Bunny" (green fluorescent protein bunny), became controversial
in February this year after her birth. The debate she was intended to spark backfired on
Eduardo. Once the bunny was born, Kac planned to bundle her up and whisk her from
France home to Chicago to live happily ever after with his family, sadly this was not to be.

Scientists at the National Institute of
Agronomic Research in France, have refused
to hand the little symbol of transgenic
fluorescence over to the family, citing too
much controversy surrounding her birth as the
reason. Animal rights activists claim her
creation is a needless manipulation of an
animal. Kac refutes this claim. "The question
is not to make the bunny meet specific
requirements or whims, but to enjoy her
company as an individual - all bunnies are
different - appreciated for her own intrinsic
virtues," he claims.

The fluorescent obsession began in an equally
bizarre manner to its current application. A surgeon, Dr Bruce Bryan, while opening a beer during a
black-out began to wonder about the benefits and potential of a glow in the dark drink. This strange
beginning led to some investigation and the eventual launch of a company to clone genes from
luminous sea creatures to advance cancer research. He, along with a team of researchers, aim to
develop substances that could help identify cancerous growths in humans, such as making tumours
glow. To fund the research however, they are developing novelty products such as glow in the dark
champagne and water guns that squirt luminous liquid.

Life as a transgenic artwork leaves a lot for this little bunny to live up to. "What is important is the
completely integrated process of creating the bunny, bringing her to society at large, and providing
her with a loving, caring, and nurturing environment in which she can grow safe and healthy," said
With Eduardo on the case, the world could soon have a veritable treasure-trove of ill-coloured,
freakish animals, all in the name of art.

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