Scientists have developed glow in the dark cats with intrinsic immunity to the feline AIDS virus to help combat the disease in cats and humans.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) causes AIDS in cats as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) does in people, by depleting the body's infection-fighting T-cells.
The purpose of the study was to show how a natural protein that prevents macaque monkeys developing Aids can do the same in cats.
The Mayo team of physicians, virologists, veterinarians and gene therapy researchers, along with collaborators in Japan, thus devised a way to insert effective monkey versions of them into the cat genome.
The technique is called gamete-targeted lentiviral transgenesis essentially, inserting genes into feline oocytes (eggs) before sperm fertilization.
Succeeding with it for the first time in a carnivore, the team inserted a gene for a rhesus macaque restriction factor known to block cell infection by FIV, as well as a jellyfish gene for tracking purposes. The latter makes the offspring cats glow green.
The macaque restriction factor blocks FIV by attacking and disabling the virus's outer shield as it tries to invade a cell.
“One of the best things about this biomedical research is that it is aimed at benefiting both human and feline health,” says Eric Poeschla, M.D., Mayo molecular biologist and leader of the international study. “It can help cats as much as people.”
The study has been published in the current online issue of Nature Methods.