Monday, September 12, 2011

Glowing cats shed light on Aids

Cats that have been genetically modified to glow in the dark are being used to gain insights into Aids.

The scientists inserted one gene into the cats that helps them resist the feline form of Aids.

They also inserted a gene that produces a fluorescent protein called GFP, Nature Methods journal reports.

This protein - which is produced naturally in jellyfish - is commonly used in this area of research to monitor the activity of altered genes.

"We did it to mark cells easily just by looking under the microscope or shining a light on the animal," said Dr Eric Poeschla, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, US.

The antiviral gene comes from a rhesus macaque, and produces a protein called a restriction factor that can resist Aids-causing viruses affecting other animals.

The team from the US and Japan then transferred this gene, along with the one for GFP, into feline eggs - known as oocytes.

The method worked so well that nearly all offspring from the modified eggs had the restriction factor genes. And these proteins were made throughout the cats' bodies. more