Glowing green cats are in the news — and it is not because of a hoax or some sort of alien UFO sighting. According to Reuters news of Africa, a group of clever scientists from the United States have actually developed a strain of glowing cats they hope will help doctors with medical research. What’s more, one of the first ones is named after a famous TV character on the Captain Kangaroo series.
Like super-heroes, the luminous felines emirate an eerie green glow.
The people who created them allegedly have super-cells that resist infection from a very specific virus — one that causes feline AIDS [Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome]. Their findings are of particular importance to medical research because they might be able to help find a way to prevent AIDS in people.
How did the scientist develop cats that glow?
By inserting jellyfish genes into feline eggs that have already been modified with monkey genes that made the feline eggs resistant to the virus. [Yeah -- we know... it all sounds strange and complicated, but rumors about glowing kitty cats are true.]
The study, published on Sunday in the journal Nature Methods, involved inserting monkey genes that block the virus into feline eggs, or oocytes, before they are fertilized…
The scientists also inserted jellyfish genes that make the modified cells glow an eerie green colour — 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.
The remarkable study and “invention” (of sorts) is making big headline news in scientific journals and among medical professionals. “This provides the unprecedented capability to study the effects of giving AIDS-protection genes into an AIDS-vulnerable animal,” claimed Dr. Eric Poeschla, a physician who works with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
The leader of the led the study, Poeschla expressed clear optimism about both the success of his team’s research and for the future applications of his project regarding the goal of ending the African AIDS epidemic and the global effects of the life threatening virus as a humanitarian issue.
Aside from the medical research part of making cats glow (so humans can study specific diseases and gene traits), animal lovers are expressing concern that new breeds of designer pets with unique qualities may emerge.
“What’s next — a cat that emanates neon light under a black light for its owner’s entertainment? How do these people know the animals themselves won’t suffer more due to the gene splicing?” asks concerned pet owner Helen Jones of Baltimore.
How the glowing light is seen — whether by special gauge or naked human eye — was not disclosed in many of the early news reports that swirled on the internet, adding to the animal rights activist concerns about the cats being exposed to strange and unusual scientific tests or cruel treatment.
The Daily Mail investigated further and revealed the cats do in fact have glowing eyes in the dark like a regular feline — but their nostrils, gums, and tongue also glow. Apparently, the anomaly does not seem to harm the cats at all.
To date, three glowing green cats have been born — with the most remarkable of the trio affectionately being named “Mr. Green Genes” by researchers (with a nod to the American television show character Mr. Green Jeans featured on the Captain Kangaroo series).
The real Mr. Green Jeans was played by the late actor Hugh Brannum (1910–1987). Captain Kangaroo aired from 1955 to 1984, leaving an impression on many American children. Brannum always brought an animal to the show for an educational skit, inspiring kids of all ages to love and respect animals.