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中国科学家破译白海参基因密码(英文)

更新时间:2015-8-10 9:05:32 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

摘要:白海参是罕见的基因变异产物,因稀有而名贵,多见于高档宴会的餐桌。中国科学院海洋研究所的研究人员近日称,已破解白海参的遗传密码,可将其进行批量培育。

Sea cucumbers, sluglike creatures that hug the seafloor, have long been a prized delicacy at Chinese banquets, the mark of a special occasion. And no variety of sea cucumber is more valued, or costlier, than the exceedingly rare albino. Just a few years ago, five white sea cucumbers sold at auction in the city of Jinan for 160,000 renminbi, or nearly $26,000 at today’s exchange rate.

Now, Chinese scientists say they have cracked the genetic code of the albino sea cucumber, opening the door to its mass production.

Albinism is the result of a mutation that shows up in only 0.001 percent to 0.01 percent of the sea cucumber population, according to Dr. Sebastian Ferse of the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology in Bremen, Germany. One reason sea cucumber albinism is unusual in nature is that it leaves the animal highly visible to predators.

According to the report by the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Qingdao, researchers who have been studying the genetic makeup of sea cucumbers have identified the gene responsible for albinism, and have begun producing genetically modified albinos. This year alone, it says, the scientists, led by Dr. Yang Hongsheng, have succeeded in breeding 150 million white sea cucumbers suitable for aquaculture.

In Chinese traditional medicine, sea cucumbers — which are called haishen (海参), or “sea ginseng,” in Chinese — are thought to improve skin texture, reduce high blood pressure and suppress cancer. Chinese news outlets have reported that the white variety contains 10 times more selenium than the normal kind, and therefore is more effective in treating cancer.

Dr. Ferse of the Leibniz Center said research provides little support for this notion. “As there are genetic differences between albinos and regular animals, sometimes to the detriment of an organism’s physiology, it is possible that there are effects on nutritional properties as well,” he said, “but I believe this is rather unlikely.”

With the prospect of large-scale production, can shoppers expect some day to find packages of inexpensive white sea cucumbers next to the frozen shrimp and scallops in their local supermarkets?

Liu Yang, a spokesman for the Institute of Oceanology, said in a telephone interview that it was too early to assess the commercial possibilities. “It’s a new technology that hasn’t been industrialized, so we don’t know what economic benefits it will bring,” he said. “It’s hard to predict.”

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