Would you like to have a cat that doesn’t kill the birds that visit the feeder on your back deck or one that won’t make you sneeze? What about a pet that lives longer because it is free of age-related diseases? Or one that glows in the dark? These seemingly far-fetched ideas may become reality in the near future, as humans tinker with animals’ genetic codes in an effort to to customize certain traits and characteristics.
Some of the tinkering is less obtrusive, such as g,ene therapy which involves modifications that return the animal to a normal, disease-free state. An example is the research efforts of
But some research being done is more obtrusive, and could potentially create an animal with enhanced traits or characteristics not found in nature. Love cats but don’t own one because they make you sneeze?
Going even further away from Mother Nature’s model for a cat, Mayo Clinic scientists have developed glow-in-the-dark cats by inserting the gene that makes jellyfish glow into cats. They were created not as a mere intellectual exercise, but instead for a specific research purpose – the glow-in-the-dark gene was inserted into certain cats along with a gene to block feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). If the cat glowed, the glow provided evidence that the anti-FIV gene was operational. But because glow-in-the-dark cats do not exist in nature, this type of research brings ,thoughts of “Frankenpets” to mind.