US and Japanese scientists working at the Mayo Clinic have done some gene splicing in cats. The aim of this work is to make the cats resistant to the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), which is similar to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS in humans.
So why the glow? This is from a jellyfish gene spliced into the cat’s gene so that the scientists can basically track the rhesus macaque gene which was also spliced into the cat’s. The rhesus macaque carries this gene which makes it resistant to the AIDS virus.
What does the future hold for these glowing cats? In addition to life in a lab? Infection.
So far, Dr. Poeschla’s team has only tested cells taken from the animals and found they were resistant to FIV. But eventually they plan to expose the cats to the virus and see if they are protected.
It’s not just cats
In 2009, marmosets were genetically modified to glow green and pass the trait onto their children. This was a first for scientists. Though primates that make a glowing protein had been created before, these were the first to keep the change in their bloodlines. Scientists have:
- Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Atlanta, US, created rhesus macaque monkeys with Huntington’s disease. Four of those are still awaiting puberty, and the researchers hope that they will produce a second generation of macaques with the disease.
- Researchers in Taiwan developed green glowing pigs that will mate with ordinary female pigs to create a new generation for much greater numbers of transgenic pigs for use in research.
- Dogs are also used as candidates for research because they have “good communication skills with humans, which enable them to have good response skills to direct orders. They are also easy to handle.” Genetically Modified Beagle, Teagon, was born.
- Dr Monteiro, a US scientist, wanted to investigate the environmental factors that led to wing patterns. Thus, we genetically altered the butterfly.
Origins in Exploitation
Martin Chalfie, Roger Tsien and Osamu Shimomura are the three scientists that made it possible to exploit the genetic mechanism responsible for luminosity in the marine creatures by first discovering the glowing protein (green fluorescent protein – GFP) from jellyfish. Scientists trying to modify an animal will include the gene responsible for GFP to tell them if the modification was successful. It is the same science that has lead laboratories to develop “glowing” rabbits, butterflies, pigs, mice, monkeys, and others.
The scientists were lauded for their work in exploitation with a Noble Prize, a medal, and a diploma.
Why It Matters
Animal testing is unreliable and cruel.
The testing performed on non-human animals, including primates, does not provide accurate and useful information regarding human medicine.
Ending Non-human primate research would benefit human medicine by halting the flow of unreliable data from it, and by diverting research funds to more appropriate and promising methods. These include batteries of human-based tests that provide reliable and relevant information on which to base further research and translate laboratory findings to the clinic: microarrays and other DNA technologies; proteomics and metabolomics; mathematical and computer modelling; epidemiology; human clinical research; myriad in vitro molecular biological techniques; microfluidics devices; scanning technologies, microdosing etc…. in short, technologies that have demonstrably contributed to human medicine. – Jarrod Bailey, Ph.D
Also, don’t be surprised if glowing pets becomes a new trend. Chemyong Jay Ko, an associate professor in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Kentucky said, the “technology could be used for producing a variety of unique cats and dogs, possibly creating a new area of commercial interest.”
Perez Hilton posted this about the glowing kittens, “Curing AIDS and making kittens cuter… we can’t think of a better way for scientists to spend their time.” We obviously have a long way to go in educating people.
How You Can Help
Due to current governmental regulations around the globe, it is nearly impossible to avoid medications that have been tested on animals. Refusing medications for ethical reasons will do little to deter pharmaceutical companies from using animal experimentation to determine the safety and efficacy of new medications. More funding must be dedicated to the development of better, more reliable, human-based drug testing.
Help affect change:
- Contact your governmental agency that is responsible for animal testing to voice opposition
- Support charities that fund only non-animal research
- Buy only cruelty-free
- Share and Tweet to help educate and raise awareness about animal testing