In nature, only fireflies and marine creatures (like jellyfish, abyssal squids and fish, and others) are fluorescent, but now, after researchers managed to obtain fluorescent pigs, rabbits, butterflies and tank fish, based on genes from these creatures, now we have fluorescent cats, too.
This was achieved by a South Korean team by inserting in the cat genome a fluorescent protein gene, through a procedure that could help develop treatments for
human genetic diseases. The researches changed a skin gene and used a virus in order to carry the fluorescent genes coming from jellyfish into the eggs of the mother.
The genetically engineered cats glow red in the dark when exposed to UV light, because of the red fluorescent protein in their skin, while an ordinary cat will appear green.
The team led by Kong Il-keun, a geneticist at Gyeongsang National University, got three kittens presenting the fluorescence protein (RFP) genes.
"It marked the first time in the world that cats with RFP genes have been cloned. The ability to produce cloned cats with the manipulated genes is significant as it could be used for developing treatments for genetic diseases and for reproducing model (cloned) animals suffering from the same diseases as humans", said the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology.
The kittens of the Turkish Angora breed were born in January and February; one did not survive, whereas the other two reached adulthood, weighing 3 kg (6.6 pounds) and 3.5 kg.
"This technology can be applied to clone animals suffering from the same diseases as humans", Kong told AFP.
"It will also help develop stemcell treatments", he said, pointing to the fact that humans and cats share about 250 genetic diseases.
"The technology can also help clone endangered animals like tigers, leopards and wildcats", Kong added.
This achievement comes after a huge scandal that stroke South Korea's bio-engineering industry, after what the cloning expert Hwang Woo-Suk who claimed to be the first human stem cells created through cloning in 2006 proved to be a fake. Now, Hwang has to face charges of fraud and embezzlement in trial.