Scientist have genetically modified cats to make them them glow green in the dark in the hope to discover more about the deadly AIDS virus.
Cats were inserted with one GENE to help them resist the feline form of the disease and they also inserted them with another GENE that produces GFP, a flourescent protein.
GFP is a protein naturally produced in jellyfish and is now becoming more and more popular in its use to research and monitor the activity of altered genes.
Leading the US research team is Dr Eric Poeschia from the mayo Clinic in Rochester: “We did it to mark cells easily just by looking under the microscope or shining a light on the animal.”
The antiviral gene inserted into the cat came from a rhesus macaque monkey that produces a protein known as a restriction factor that is able to fight off AIDS-causing viruses that affect other animals.
The scientists transferred this gene with the one for GFP into the cats eggs which proved so successful that almost all the offspring form the modified eggs had the restriction factor genes and were able to provide the proteins throughout the cats’ bodies.
Using this method, the feline version of the AIDS virus, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) which wipes out infection-fighting cells the same as AIDS does in humans, was greatly reduced.
FIV in felines is believed to affect more than half-a-billion feral cats in the world transmitted largely by biting but many domesticated pet cats are affected be the deadly virus.
Eventually Dr Poeschia hopes to extend his study from testing cells in the felines to exposing them directly the the IFV virus and see if they are indeed protected which could lead to more information on how to protect humans from the AIDS virus.