Cats are a special bunch--they can be happy, angry, sad, or even defy being a cat. Some can't walk properly while some just feel like not walking at all. And while these felines seem to be a healthy companion, they can actually also get Aids--their own "special" form of AIDS.
Scientists from US and Japan have found a way to prevent this FIV or feline immunodeficiency virus. However, this involved letting our furry friends glow.
Researchers inserted an antiviral gene into cat eggs, also known as oocytes, to help cats resist FIV. Such gene comes from rhesus macaque, a primate that was commonly used in research to develop vaccines in rabies, smallpox and polio. This gene produces a protein called restriction factor that fights viruses that can cause AIDS that affects other animals.
They also inserted a gene that makes GFP, a fluorescent protein to make the antiviral gene, glow. This protein is naturally produced in jellyfish and is used a lot when monitoring altered genes.
"We did it to mark cells easily just by looking under the microscope or shining a light on the animal," said Mayo Clinic Dr Eric Poeschla.
Results showed that almost all offspring from the genetically modified eggs had restriction factor genes. They also found out that the replication of FIV in these cats was reduced.
Similar to HIV, FIV wipes out T-cells or the lymphocytes that fight infection and are part of the immune system. FIV is most common in feral cats, which are transmitted by biting, but house cats can be affected too. Normally, restriction factors in both humans and cats are defenceless against FIV and HIV, but monkey versions of restriction factors are well equipped in handling these viruses.
The researchers plan in the future to expose cats to FIV to see if the antiviral gene still works. "If you could show that you confer protection to these animals, it would give us a lot of information about protecting humans," said Dr Poeschla.
Well, it's not everyday you see a cat glow. (Should I still emphasize how awesome that is?) What more if it's used for a really important medical breakthrough, right? Meow.