What might they decide to do next? The animal kingdom has been increased with some new varieties. Hopefully, man’s attempts to change our world will actually yield benefits. At least here you could find your pet at night.

Fr. Orthohippo

Cats that can glow in the dark from a new genetic  engineering technique are helping scientists study molecules that could stop  AIDS, researchers announced Sept. 11.

So far, the researchers have created three  genetically engineered kittens that can glow green and pass this gene onto their  offspring. They explained that cats are much better models for AIDS viruses than are mice and other animals. [See Images of the  Glowing Kittens]

In addition to opening a window into the virus in  humans, the cat research may end up helping the felines themselves, the  researchers said.

Devastating AIDS pandemics

The world is currently facing two devastating  AIDS pandemics— one in humans, the other in domestic cats. The viruses  responsible, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and feline  immunodeficiency virus (FIV), are highly similar.

“FIV causes AIDS with loss of infection-fighting T  cells like HIV does in people, and cats get sick from virtually the same  AIDS-defining opportunistic infections as humans who have untreated HIV,” said  researcher Eric Poeschla, a molecular biologist and infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic College of  Medicine in Rochester, Minn. [10  Deadly Diseases That Hopped Across Species]

As such, researchers have long wanted to genetically  experiment with cats to better understand how to combat AIDS. To create  genetically modified animals, scientists insert genes into their genomes, often  using benign viruses as the delivery vehicles. Investigators commonly target the  earliest possible stages in an animal’s development so the gene gets installed  into all of its cells — any later, and the gene can end up in some tissues but  not others.

Tinkering with cat genes

At first scientists created genetically engineered  cats using cloning, which meant injecting a gene into one cell — from the skin,  for instance — and then implanting the modified nucleus of that cell into an egg  cell that had its nucleus removed; the resulting cell then develops into an  embryo much like a fertilized egg would. In this manner, researchers generated  felines that were either fluorescent red or green, a glow-in-the-dark cat being  visible proof of the genetic  engineering succeeding.

However, this kind of cloning is very difficult to  perform, as it essentially involves delicate surgery on cells. In addition, the  manhandling that both nucleus and egg experience and the “reprogramming” the  nucleus undergoes from adult to embryonic status often leads to animals that  might look normal but can have aberrations on the molecular and cellular  level.

Now scientists have developed a new way to create  genetically engineered domestic cats where they modify egg cells directly with  viruses. The amount of genetic material they implanted within the cats was tiny — if the entire string of DNA that is the cat genome were unraveled and depicted  as a highway reaching across the United States from New York to Los Angeles, the  inserted material would be equal in length to one of the dashed yellow lines in  the middle of the highway somewhere out in Nebraska, Poeschla said.

This efficient process, the first time sex cells of  a carnivore have been genetically modified, led to embryos that robustly  expressed the implanted gene without all the complexities cloning can involve.  The result — three healthy kittens that glowed green when a blue light was shone  on them and transmitted the gene to their offspring.

The researchers then applied this approach to  investigating resistance to AIDS.

“We want to see if we can protect the domestic cat  against its AIDS virus, if we can protect any species, eventually including  ours, against its own AIDS virus,” Poeschla told LiveScience. The aim of future  treatments is a gene therapy that can introduce protective genes into people  that help them fight off HIV, he added. [AIDS:  A Winnable Public Health Battle?]

To do so, they created transgenic cats that  generated or expressed antiviral proteins taken from rhesus monkeys.

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About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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