by Oct 03, 2011 No Comments

“Scientists create green glowing cats,” the Sun reported.

As headlines go, it certainly grabs your attention.

“With that eerie green glow, there is no way this genetically modified moggy could sneak up on mice in the dark…” continued the Daily Mirror.

“Not that she will get the chance. This GM feline has a far more important role to play – in future AIDS research.” There are high hopes for the fluorescent felines, which have been genetically modified by researchers from the USA and Japan.

The three glowing cats were created by injecting genes for fluorescence and for resistance to the feline version of HIV, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), into the eggs from which the animals eventually grew. A successfully modified cat should glow green under UV light, indicating it carried both the fluorescence gene and the gene for virus resistance.

“We did it to mark cells easily just by looking under the microscope or shining a light on the animal,” Dr Eric Poeschla, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, US, is reported to have said.

The researchers explain their methods further in the journal, Nature Methods: “The method establishes gamete-targeted transgenesis for the first time in a carnivore.” “This capability to experimentally manipulate the genome of an AIDS-susceptible species can be used to test the potential of restriction factors for HIV gene therapy and to build models of other infectious and non-infectious diseases.” Poeschla said he hopes the research will benefit both human and feline health.

However, it is the cat’s eerie green glow that caused the most entertainment for the media.

“Tabbies had a gene from a fluorescent jellyfish inserted into their DNA — and have since given birth to luminous kittens,” was how the Sun reported the breakthrough.

Similarly, “It is a rite of passage for any sufficiently advanced genetically modified animal: at some point scientists will insert a gene that makes you glow green,” added the Guardian. While the Daily Mail was quick to pick up that “novelty” glow in the dark pets might now be a possibility.

Despite some concerns expressed by animal welfare groups, the kittens themselves are “completely normal – frisky, happy healthy and interactive”, claimed Poeschla, who added that they had shown no reaction to their unusual ability.

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