Glowing Kittens Help In Fight Against AIDS | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Glowing Kittens Help In Fight Against AIDS

Play associated audio

Here's an experiment: Turn off your lights, shine a blue flashlight on the cats in the room and look for the ones that turn neon green, like a glow stick.

That's how scientists at the Mayo Clinic identify cats that they've successfully treated against the feline immunodeficiency virus.

The AIDS epidemic in humans is well-known. Less known is that every year, millions of cats suffer and die from the disease.

To protect cats against feline AIDS, the Mayo Clinic and colleagues in Japan devised a treatment with a peculiar side effect. They took monkey genes that block HIV infection and injected them into cat eggs. Kittens born from those eggs produced AIDS-resistant protein in the same cells that get infected, effectively shielding them from the disease. Their offspring are also immune.

To tell the treated cats from the untreated ones, scientists added another simple ingredient to the mix: jellyfish genes, which make the modified cells glow a green color.

"It allows you to tell whether the gene of interest is in the cell without having to do an invasive test," Dr. Eric Poeschla, a molecular biologist with the Mayo Clinic, tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. Scientists simply turn off the lights and shine a blue light to tell which cats have the AIDS-resistant gene.

The cats don't feel a thing, Poeschla says. "They're healthy and happy and they're playful."

The feline treatment could help other mammals down the line. The Mayo team isn't injecting human stem cells with the monkey-jellyfish concoction, but it is watching the cats for new insights.

"If they have the power to protect, then they could perhaps be used in the future in human gene therapy," Poeschla says.

Unfortunately, you can't get your own glow-in-the dark kitty just yet.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

How'd A Cartoonist Sell His First Drawing? It Only Took 610 Tries

Tom Toro was a directionless 20-something film school dropout. Then, after an inspired moment at a used book sale, he started submitting drawings to The New Yorker ... and collecting rejection slips.
NPR

Will Environmentalists Fall For Faux Fish Made From Plants?

A handful of chefs and food companies are experimenting with fish-like alternatives to seafood. But the market is still a few steps behind plant-based products for meat and dairy.
NPR

Will We See Veto Battles On Capitol Hill?

With President Obama promising to vetoes, what are the possibilities of a few veto overrides during the next two years? NPR's Arun Rath puts that questions to the National Journal's Fawn Johnson.
NPR

3 Voices, 1 Threat: Personal Stories Of Cyberhacking

In President Obama's State of the Union address, he gave fresh emphasis to a problem that has been in the headlines: cybersecurity. Here are three people who have experienced security breaches.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.