Cats Engineered for Disease Resistance
by: Ashley Beyer
As reported in the online Science News article called “Cats Engineered for Disease Resistance” by Tina Hesman Saey on September 12, 2011 (found at:
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/334271/title/Cats_engineered_for_disease_resistance) cats, which have been genetically modified, may be immune to the HIV-like
Worldwide, HIV has infected and killed many for over three decades. Still today, HIV can be slowed down, but there is no cure. In the feline species, the feline immunodeficiency virus
(FIV) is similar to HIV. Scientists have engineered cats with a gene, which makes an antiviral protein that will hopefully fight FIV. The scientists also add another gene that makes the cat glow green under fluorescent lights so they can see their results. Cats acquire this FIV virus because they lack TRIM5alpha, a key immune protein, which fights viruses before the rest of the immune system senses an infection. During the procedure, the researchers collected eggs of a cat left after spaying and injected the antiviral protein from the genes of a rhesus monkey and green fluorescent protein into the eggs. The viruses then inserted the genes into the DNA of the eggs. After fertilization, the researchers put the embryos into the wombs of the cat surrogate mothers. Three transgenic kittens, which are kittens with the foreign genes, were born. These cats were able to pass on the genes to their kittens, also. It is still questionable if these cats will be able to pass along any of the genes. The research team is continuing breeding the cats to test their immunity against the virus.
The leader of this study was Eric Poeschla, a molecular virologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Poeschla is driven to find a cure to FIV, which may lead to a cure
of HIV in people. He also thinks broadly; he studied a similar disease in cats and experimented with this to help find clues to cure HIV in humans. He is eager to volunteer and wants to help both the human and cat species. Poeschla and his team are both curious and obsessed in that they are continuing their study with continuing breeding the cats and doing more research. The researchers are visionaries in the hope of one day finding the cure to HIV.
This study is important since this may be a possible clue to help fight HIV infections in people. Also, at the very least, the experiment found a way to help fight against FIV in cats. HIV has been around since the 1980s and has killed more than 25 million people. Society would highly benefit if AIDS could be cured. The death rate from this
virus would be significantly lower and it would be a step forward in the scientific community. In Africa, for example, the population would greatly increase if HIV was cured. In addition, this research may lead to similar experiments in different species of animals with FIV-like viruses. It should be reassuring to society that scientists are still diligently working to find cures to different diseases, even though they haven’t always been successful.