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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Glow-in-the-Dark Cloned Cats

Cloned Turkish Angora cats (left) that glows (right) under ultraviolet beams.
~Images by AFP~

South Korean scientists have cloned cats that glow red when exposed to ultraviolet beams in a side-effect, by manipulating a fluorescent protein gene - a procedure which could help develop treatments for human genetic diseases.

A team of scientists led by Kong Il-keun, a cloning expert at Gyeongsang National University, produced three cats possessing altered fluorescence protein genes (RFP). Three cats were born in January and February - one died while two others grew to become adult Turkish Angoras, weighing 3.0kg and 3.5kg.

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 reproduction model (cloned) animals suffering from the same diseases as humans.

It will also help develop stem-cell treatments; cats have some 250 kinds of genetic diseases that affect humans, too.

"Cats have similar genes to those of humans," said veterinary professor Kong Il-keun. "We can make genetically modified cats that can be used to develop new cures for genetic diseases."

Keitaro Kato, a geneticist at Kinki University in western Japan who has cloned fish, said the research could be significant if it eventually helps treat people with hereditary diseases.

"People with genetic disorders usually have to receive treatment throughout their lives that is very hard on them," Kato said. "If these results can help to make their lives easier, then I think it's a wonderful thing."


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