Monday, September 12, 2011

Bio-Art: Alba.

Transgenic life is inevitable. Our food is spliced several times over with genes that promote growth and prevent pests. Even organic tomatoes are considerably modified from their wild counterparts. It was only a matter of time before our pets got into the splicing craze.

Image from Kac's site. Hope he doesn't mind the free advertising!

Meet Alba. She was made by French scientists under commission from Eduardo Kac, whose specialty is using science to make beautiful things. Under normal light, she is a perfectly healthy-looking lab rabbit. There is no way to tell that Kac ever intended for her to be anything besides a pet.

Then the blacklight comes on and she starts to glow bright green.

How you can tell this image is fake: The pupil isn't glowing.

Alba contains the GFP protein from crystal jellyfish (Aequorea victoria) in her veins. The protein is usually used to track certain traits, such as disorders, in organisms (namely fruit flies). Who are we kidding? Science just loves making things glow crazy colors.

Alba was created purely for aesthetic pleasure. We are unsure of HOW much she glows - most of the photos have been altered to exaggerate how bright Alba is - but somewhere, beneath all that white, fluffy fur, she will glow as green as The Hulk in the proper lighting. It helps that Alba lacks pigment, but even so, she will not glow as brightly as the image shows.

Making the bunny glow was just one part of a bigger "GFP Bunny" project. Her designer, Eduardo Kac, wished to make a creature outside of nature, then integrate it into his household as a pet. This unfortunately happened with GloFish before Alba ever made it into Kac's home.


No sooner was Alba revealed when controversy came hard and fast. In the mid 2000's, Kac tried to take his bunny home, but the French lab insisted that she stay at the facility. This led to a back-and-forth conflict between the labs, Kac, and the news media covering the cute little glowing bunny.

Ultimately, Eduardo Kac's project never came to its conclusion (especially with the sketchiness of Alba's whereabouts today). Kac probably still has his "Free Alba" flag flying outside his house, waiting for the rest of us to accept that a glowing animal can be just as fine a pet as any other. Hey, we accept Chihuahuas fairly readily.

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