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Fluorescent Cats Aid Research

Tiny, adorable and…green? Glowing kittens may answer questions about neurobiology and disease.

By | September 13, 2011

This glow-in-the-dark kitten has a unique set of genes.MAYO CLINIC

Cats come in all sorts of colors—tabby, orange, and calico—but scientists are most interested in the fluorescent variety. Eric Poeschla, a molecular virologist at the Mayo Clinic, used a technique called transgenesis to bestow kittens with a heightened immune system as well as an unearthly green glow, which allows researchers to track the expression of genes of interest.

Poeschla and colleagues used a modified virus to transfer the green fluorescent protein gene into cat egg cells. The green marker allowed them to visualize their real target: a monkey-derived protein called TRIMCyp. This protective protein, found in some primates but not in cats, prevents organisms from becoming infected with an HIV-like disease called feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

The transduced cat eggs were then fertilized and injected into adult female cats. Of the 11 successfully-implanted embryos, 10 contained the TRIMCyp and GFP genes. “Almost all the offspring [carried the new genes], so you’re not screening hundreds of animals to find the transgenic ones,” Poeschla told told ScienceNOW. After about two months, five kittens were born, three of which survived.

More importantly, Poeschla and colleagues report in Nature Methods, when the scientists exposed blood samples from the transgenic kittens to FIV, the virus didn’t replicate well, suggesting the TRIMCyp protein was offering some level of protection to the cats.

The experiment marks the first time GFP has been successfully expressed in a carnivore. The researchers suggest the same method can be used to test whether other antiviral proteins may aid cats against FIV, as well as study other aspects of cat physiology. Cats’ visual cortexes are also more closely related to humans than those of mice, for example, suggesting cats may serve as a better model system for studying that part of the brain. It seems there’s a glowing future in cat research.

Correction: This story has been updated from its original version to clarify the success of the technique, and indicate that some primates, but not humans, have the TRIMCyp gene. The Scientist regrets the error.

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Anonymous

September 13, 2011

"Five mother cats carried 10 modified embryos, and after about two months, bore five kittens, three of which survived—a 23 percent survival rate."
3/10 = 23% ?? 
Must be new math!

Avatar of: rachelnuwer

rachelnuwer

Posts: 1

September 13, 2011

Thank you for your comment, the article has been amended. We got the original figure from ScienceInsider, but we may have misinterpreted it, and we couldn't verify it with the original Nature Methods paper. We hope the updated text more clearly states why the researchers feel the approach has promise.

Avatar of: Kitten

Anonymous

September 13, 2011

 I haven't read the article, but wondering about any of the negative effects of this transgenic gene: does it affect any of the natural processes or activities of these green kittens? And does anyone really want a green glow-in-the-dark cat? Don't want

Avatar of: Rkrillin18

Anonymous

September 13, 2011

TRIMCyp is not found in humans. TRIMCyp was initially found in owl monkeys. Then it was identified in macaques. It's only been found in those two primates.

Avatar of: amccoy

amccoy

Posts: 3

September 13, 2011

Interesting, without having read the article my first question would be why the virus?  Does the viral machinery help integrate the transgene?

Avatar of: Shai Lan

Anonymous

September 13, 2011

Neschow Hoi Bando.

Avatar of: Wow-wow wubzy

Anonymous

September 13, 2011

Wowie Wowzers!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

"Five mother cats carried 10 modified embryos, and after about two months, bore five kittens, three of which survived—a 23 percent survival rate."
3/10 = 23% ?? 
Must be new math!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

Thank you for your comment, the article has been amended. We got the original figure from ScienceInsider, but we may have misinterpreted it, and we couldn't verify it with the original Nature Methods paper. We hope the updated text more clearly states why the researchers feel the approach has promise.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

 I haven't read the article, but wondering about any of the negative effects of this transgenic gene: does it affect any of the natural processes or activities of these green kittens? And does anyone really want a green glow-in-the-dark cat? Don't want

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

TRIMCyp is not found in humans. TRIMCyp was initially found in owl monkeys. Then it was identified in macaques. It's only been found in those two primates.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

Interesting, without having read the article my first question would be why the virus?  Does the viral machinery help integrate the transgene?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

Neschow Hoi Bando.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

Wowie Wowzers!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

"Five mother cats carried 10 modified embryos, and after about two months, bore five kittens, three of which survived—a 23 percent survival rate."
3/10 = 23% ?? 
Must be new math!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

Thank you for your comment, the article has been amended. We got the original figure from ScienceInsider, but we may have misinterpreted it, and we couldn't verify it with the original Nature Methods paper. We hope the updated text more clearly states why the researchers feel the approach has promise.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

 I haven't read the article, but wondering about any of the negative effects of this transgenic gene: does it affect any of the natural processes or activities of these green kittens? And does anyone really want a green glow-in-the-dark cat? Don't want

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

TRIMCyp is not found in humans. TRIMCyp was initially found in owl monkeys. Then it was identified in macaques. It's only been found in those two primates.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

Interesting, without having read the article my first question would be why the virus?  Does the viral machinery help integrate the transgene?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

Neschow Hoi Bando.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 13, 2011

Wowie Wowzers!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 14, 2011

I think it would be useful to have a GFP cat... aside from it being cool come Halloween, it would be nice to not be startled by a cat in the middle of the night when you get up to go to the bathroom... also, it would be like having a warm furry night light.  However, I don't think the general population could afford the price tag of a GFP pet.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 14, 2011

Actually GFP has been sucessfully expressed in many specias, including carnivores, prior to 2011. And one more thing, not to confuse readers, the cat doesn't walk around glowing. The green glow can only be seen when a UV light is shinning on him and there isnt any or much fur to block the UV light. 

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 14, 2011

I think it would be useful to have a GFP cat... aside from it being cool come Halloween, it would be nice to not be startled by a cat in the middle of the night when you get up to go to the bathroom... also, it would be like having a warm furry night light.  However, I don't think the general population could afford the price tag of a GFP pet.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 14, 2011

Actually GFP has been sucessfully expressed in many specias, including carnivores, prior to 2011. And one more thing, not to confuse readers, the cat doesn't walk around glowing. The green glow can only be seen when a UV light is shinning on him and there isnt any or much fur to block the UV light. 

Avatar of: johndossantos

Anonymous

September 14, 2011

I think it would be useful to have a GFP cat... aside from it being cool come Halloween, it would be nice to not be startled by a cat in the middle of the night when you get up to go to the bathroom... also, it would be like having a warm furry night light.  However, I don't think the general population could afford the price tag of a GFP pet.

Avatar of: Honeybadger

Anonymous

September 14, 2011

Actually GFP has been sucessfully expressed in many specias, including carnivores, prior to 2011. And one more thing, not to confuse readers, the cat doesn't walk around glowing. The green glow can only be seen when a UV light is shinning on him and there isnt any or much fur to block the UV light. 

Avatar of: johndossantos

Anonymous

September 15, 2011

Thanks for the clarification, and dashing my hopes of a living night light... I suppose I could always just shave the cat for Halloween and put black-lights everywhere!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 15, 2011

Thanks for the clarification, and dashing my hopes of a living night light... I suppose I could always just shave the cat for Halloween and put black-lights everywhere!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 15, 2011

Thanks for the clarification, and dashing my hopes of a living night light... I suppose I could always just shave the cat for Halloween and put black-lights everywhere!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 18, 2011

gee whiz type of research; move on and do something useful!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 18, 2011

gee whiz type of research; move on and do something useful!

Avatar of: don salter

Anonymous

September 18, 2011

gee whiz type of research; move on and do something useful!

Avatar of: HOPEY DOPEY!!!!!!

Anonymous

September 22, 2011

I think that cat likes cheese burgers

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 22, 2011

I think that cat likes cheese burgers

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

September 22, 2011

I think that cat likes cheese burgers

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