In The Dark, Some Cats Are Green!

Jellyfish, for reasons best known to themselves, a long time ago took to producing a protein which gave them a nice green glow when lit up with short wavelengths of light, that is at the blue to ultraviolet end of the spectrum. The isolation and use of this green fluorescent protein as a gene-tag was the basis of the 2008 Nobel Prize for chemistry.

It is often used as a marker to show the successful genetic modification of lab species that are genetically modified to study the susceptibility or resistance to disease. We now have a world that has green-glowing mosquitoes, butterflies, mice, rabbits, monkeys, pigs, and the latest is cats. They point out that this is the first glow-green carnivore. Pigs, being omnivores, don’t count as competition.

Your friendly little tabby can now come glowing into your lives just in time for Halloween. This, of course, isn’t why they have been produced, but it would certainly liven up most trick or treat visits. Other colors of protein are available, but somehow red doesn’t quite cut it for ghostly, does it?

The reason for producing glow-green cats by Poeschia et al was to study the cats’ ability to fight off the FIV that is a problem with feral cats but which can also be spread to your lap-cat if it gets it’s ear chewed by that moggie lurking in the undergrowth (1).

The team inserted a macaques antiviral gene into some feline eggs and added the fluorescent protein tag to show how effective the genetic modification had been. The next step is to see if they are resistant to the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It may be some time before you can purchase a GM cat, though.

The basic aim here is that the genetic restriction factor may help to show how humans can be protected. Just imagine. GM people with glow-green tags would give us little green men at last. Hollywood could have a whole new line of movies.


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