Glow-in-the-dark kittens to help produce cure for AIDS

Can't your cat liven up parties or fight killer diseases?

Glow-in-the-dark kittens are science's latest weapon in the war against HIV. The cats, bred at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, are resistant to feline AIDS, glow unearthly green under UV light and are an important step towards disrupting the mechanism by which HIV destroys the human immune system.

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) causes AIDS in cats in the same way that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) does in people: by depleting the body's infection-fighting T-cells. The feline and human versions of key proteins that defend mammals against virus invasion are ineffective against the virus.

To create the luminous FIV-proof cats, the unfertilised eggs of a cat were injected with DNA proteins from a rheus macaque monkey and glow-in-the-dark jellyfish genes. The two pieces of genetic material were joined together so that the fluorescent jellyfish protein could be used to track their take-up by the cat.

The Mayo Clinic explains that though there are no immediate applications for HIV sufferers, it holds potential for understanding of the disease:

The macaque restriction factor, TRIMCyp, blocks FIV by attacking and disabling the virus's outer shield as it tries to invade a cell. The researchers know that works well in a culture dish and want to determine how it will work in vivo. This specific transgenesis (genome modification) approach will not be used directly for treating people with HIV or cats with FIV, but it will help medical and veterinary researchers understand how restriction factors can be used to advance gene therapy for AIDS caused by either virus."

The research is published in full by Nature Methods. ®

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