Scientists have developed a strain of green-glowing cats with cells that resist infection from a virus that causes feline AIDS, a step that may help prevent the disease in cats and advance AIDS research in people.
The cats were created by inserting monkey genes that block the virus into feline eggs, or oocytes, before they were fertilized. The scientists also inserted jellyfish genes that make the modified cells glow an eerie green, making the altered genes easy to spot. Tests on cells taken from the cats show they are resistant to feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV, which causes AIDS in cats.
Just as the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, does in people, FIV works by wiping out infection-fighting T cells. FIV infects mostly feral cats, of which there are half a billion in the world. It is transmitted by biting, largely by males defending their territory, but companion cats are affected as well.
In both humans and cats, proteins that normally fight off viral infections are defenseless against HIV and FIV because the viruses evolved potent counter-weapons. But certain monkey versions of these proteins are capable of fighting the virus, and the research team used one such gene from the rhesus monkey.