Meet Mr Green Genes, under normal light – ginger tabby cat. Switch off the light and turn on the infrared and Mr Green
Genes glows green.
The six-month old cat has been genetically engineered by scientists at the Audubon Centre for Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans. They have taken a section of jelly fish DNA and inserted it into the cat’s genetic material or genome. Having DNA from another species in his genome makes Mr Green Genes a transgenic cat.
The DNA sequence or gene, which encodes the green fluorescent protein (GFP) was first isolated from a jellyfish (Aequorea victoria) in 1962 by Osamu Shimomura. Shimomura shared this year’s Nobel Prize for chemistry with Martin Chalfie, Roger Tsien and for work relating to GFP.
The reason a cat was used in this experiment was that feline genome is similar to the human one. The green glow in itself is not important, but when the GFP gene is linked with other genes, researchers can tell if the linked gene has been integrated into the target genome by looking for the green glow. Hopefully, Mr Green Genes is a step on the path to developing cures for diseases caused by genetic defects such as cystic fibrosis.