Glowing Cats Will Help Fight Feline AIDS and HIV

Posted on September 12, 2011

Mayo Clinic researchers announced they have developed a genome-based immunization strategy to fight feline AIDS. The plan will also illuminate ways to combat human HIV/AIDS and other diseases. The goal is to create cats with intrinsic immunity to the feline AIDS virus.

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) causes AIDS in cats as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) does in people: by depleting the body's infection-fighting T-cells.

The researchers inserted a gene for a rhesus macaque restriction factor known to block cell infection by FIV into cat eggs. They also inserted a jellyfish gene for tracking purposes, which makes the offspring cats glow green.

This specific transgenesis (genome modification) approach will not be used directly for treating people with HIV or cats with FIV, but it will help medical and veterinary researchers understand how restriction factors can be used to advance gene therapy for AIDS caused by either virus.

Eric Poeschla, M.D., Mayo molecular biologist and leader of the international study, says the research "can help cats as much as people."

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