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. The latest addition to this ever-growing list – which includes fruit flies, mice, rabbits and pigs – is the domestic cat.
US researcher Eric Poeschla has produced three glowing GM cats by using a virus to carry a gene, called green fluorescent protein (GFP), into the eggs from which the animals eventually grew.
This method of genetic modification is simpler and more efficient than traditional cloning techniques, and results in fewer animals being needed in the process.
The GFP gene, which has its origins in jellyfish, expresses proteins that fluoresce when illuminated with certain frequencies of light. Poeschla, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, reported his results in the journal Nature Methods.
This function is regularly used by scientists to monitor the activity of individual genes or cells in a wide variety of animals. The development and refinement of the GFP technique earned its scientific pioneers the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2008.
In the case of the glowing cats, the scientists hope to use the GM animals in the study of HIV/Aids.
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