Although genetically modifying animals isn't exactly new, these glow in the dark kitties could provide AIDS researchers with some new information in fighting the disease. Scientists began tests on these felines by injecting them with an anti-viral gene that is proven to help cats resist the feline form of AIDS. In addition to the anti-viral gene, scientists also inserted a fluorescent protein known as GFP.
The glowing gene causes the cat to glow in the dark, but the real reason scientists used the protein was to provide them with a device to monitor the activity of altered genes. Dr. Eric Poeschla, one of the researchers behind the project from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, United States explained that the glowing gene allowed them to clearly and easily mark cells for observation.
The glowing gene itself may have nothing to do with fighting off AIDS, but it played a key role in the clinic's research in the feline form of AIDS. Both humans and felines are equipped with proteins that fight off viral infections, but the HIV and FIV viruses are constantly evolving with weapons to counter our natural defenses. Because of the similarities in the viruses, Poeschla and his team believe that further research in protecting felines could provide some much needed insight into protecting humans.
Although the team has found that the felines are resistant to the FIV virus, they eventually plan to expose these cats to the virus in order to see whether or not they can be protected. For the sake of these cute kittens, we're hoping the anti-viral proteins are a huge success.