Sunday, September 25, 2011

News Brief: Glowing Cats Shed Light on AIDS

Alex Sakers

Fluorescent cats are lending a (glowing) paw in the fight against AIDS. These cats have been genetically engineered to express two genes, one for green fluorescent protein (GFP) - that causes them to glow, and an antiviral gene from a rhesus monkey. Of course, the antiviral gene is the one of interest - the GFP gene was only included to allow researchers to visually determine if cats had successfully received both genes as they were transferred together. The monkey antiviral gene codes for a protein called a restriction factor that is particularly good at fighting the feline aids virus called FIV which is analogous to HIV in humans. Native restriction factors in both felines and humans are useless against FIV and HIV respectively making the monkey version particularly useful in fighting the infection in infected individuals. So far, cultured cells from the glowing cats have been shown to be resistant to FIV. The team now plans to expose cats to the FIV virus to see if they are protected by the monkey restriction factor, hoping that this may someday aid in fighting HIV.

References: "Glowing Cats Shed Light on AIDS" BBC. Web. Sep 12 2011.

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