Sitting at a small table on the second floor of the Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Charles Vite crosses his legs and smiles gently - the warm, mild-mannered look of someone you would trust to give shots to a beloved (and terrified) family pet. "I was debating how to talk about the cats," he says.

Along with treating some of the 30,000 animals that are brought in each year to the clinic one floor below, Vite conducts somewhat unconventional research on one of same species. In a series of air-locked rooms, rows of large crates lining the walls contain kittens, most either pawing the door in greeting or sleepily sprawled on top of their siblings. Many exhibit the feline forms of inherited neurological diseases that afflict children.

It's not a subject...

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