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April 16, 2002


Scientist Who Developed First Transgenic Monkey Joins Emory and Yerkes

Anthony W. S. Chan, Ph.D., one of the first scientists to produce a genetically modified monkey, has been appointed Assistant Research Professor in the Division of Neuroscience at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Genetics at the Emory University School of Medicine.

Before joining Emory, Chan was a staff scientist at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center of the Oregon Health & Sciences University in Beaverton, Ore. At Emory, Chan will lead a research program to develop new non-human primate models for human diseases.

"Dr. Chan's groundbreaking research will allow the creation of rhesus and rat models of human genetic disease where mouse models are not sufficient for addressing critical questions of disease progression, pathology, and potential therapy," said Stephen T. Warren, Ph.D., W. P. Timmie Professor and Chairman of the Department of Human Genetics.

"Dr. Chan's pioneering work will contribute enormously to the cutting-edge research in immunology and other fields at Yerkes and Emory," said Stuart M. Zola, Ph.D., Director of the Yerkes Center. "His research holds the potential to significantly impact animal-based research in numerous areas of biomedical science."

In January 2001 Chan and fellow researchers from ORPRC announced the successful production of a transgenic rhesus macaque monkey, named ANDi for the reverse acronym of "inserted DNA," that carried the jellyfish gene for green fluorescent protein. Published in the journal Science, this achievement was heralded for its potential to advance research in human disease, much as the production of transgenic mice has revolutionized biomedical research.

The scientists produced ANDi by injecting a harmless virus carrying the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene into unfertilized rhesus eggs. The virus inserted its DNA, including the GFP gene, into the DNA of an egg, which then was fertilized artificially. As the fertilized egg divided repeatedly to become a multi-celled embryo, the GFP gene replicated along with the rest of the genetic material. The experiment's success was confirmed simply by detecting the fluorescence expressed by the foreign gene. Chan used a similar method to produce genetically modified calves and pigs.

Two years earlier, Chan and a research team cloned a rhesus monkey, Tetra, by splitting a single, eight-cell embryo into four identical, two-cell embryos that then were implanted into surrogate female monkeys.

While rhesus monkeys and other non-human primates are used extensively to study human diseases and conditions, scientists believe transgenic monkeys could provide an improved model for some research purposes. The development of transgenic mice greatly accelerated research in immunology and other fields, because researchers were able to closely mimic human processes.

Chan hopes eventually to produce genetically modified monkeys carrying genes associated with specific human disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, in order to study the role those genes play in vivo.

"With this understanding," Chan said, "we will ultimately be able to develop safer, better, and more effective preventive medicine and therapies for a host of diseases." Chan earned a bachelor's degree in veterinary medicine in 1989 from National Taiwan University in Taipei and a doctoral degree in endocrinology and reproductive physiology in 1997 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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