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September 13, 2011 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Yeah so here are some kittens we made that glow in the dark something something cure for AIDS science.
posted by XQUZYPHYR (68 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
fluorescence is not "glow in the dark" given there has to be a excitation light.
posted by radiosilents at 7:24 AM on September 13, 2011


All cats are oddly glowing green orbs in the dark.
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 AM on September 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


...an excitation...
posted by radiosilents at 7:25 AM on September 13, 2011


I'm impossibly fascinated with the idea of a cat that is its own laser pointer.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:28 AM on September 13, 2011 [35 favorites]


That's gotta be one creepy litterbox.
posted by item at 7:31 AM on September 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Previously.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:31 AM on September 13, 2011


Now scientists have developed a new way to create genetically engineered domestic cats where they modify egg cells directly with viruses.

This will end well.
posted by DU at 7:34 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


"FIV causes AIDS with loss of infection-fighting T cells like HIV does in people, and cats get sick from virtually the same AIDS-defining opportunistic infections as humans who have untreated HIV,"

This is why I lobby so hard for the feline needle-exchange clinic. WE'RE SAVING LIVES HERE, PEOPLE!
posted by FatherDagon at 7:34 AM on September 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ceiling cat just got a whole lot worse.
posted by crunchland at 7:35 AM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Strange.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:36 AM on September 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


It seems as if making something glow green is sort of like the genetic engineer's 'hallo world' thing.
posted by Segundus at 7:37 AM on September 13, 2011 [19 favorites]


I expect some of the study's results were obtained using computerized axial tomography scans.
posted by brain_drain at 7:38 AM on September 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


Yeah so here are some kittens we made that glow in the dark something something cure for AIDS science.

This is the best possible phrasing for this fpp.
posted by Think_Long at 7:39 AM on September 13, 2011 [23 favorites]


using computerized axial tomography scans.

i have no idea how they could do that
posted by DU at 7:39 AM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


How do you turn them off when it is time to go to sleep?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:41 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


How do you turn them off when it is time to go to sleep?

Well, with my wife, I usually talk about my day.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:51 AM on September 13, 2011 [22 favorites]


Adorable fluorescing kitty aside, I liked this line:

the first time sex cells of a carnivore have been genetically modified,

Everything about this sounds like something that a clueless scientist should be saying in the first 30 minutes of a horror movie. From the fact that it's the sex cells to the observation that it's a carnivore.

I look forward to the glowing, eating, Gremlin-like reproducing, fast evolution that is to follow shortly before we are all placed into belly scritching, catnip harvesting servitude.
posted by quin at 7:51 AM on September 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


So if I eat a glowing cat I'm immune to AIDS, right?
posted by Shutter at 7:52 AM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I for one welcome our glowing feline overlords.
posted by catwoman429 at 7:52 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It seems as if making something glow green is sort of like the genetic engineer's 'hallo world' thing.

That's actually a good description of how luciferase is used. It provides a much easier way to determine if an implanted DNA sequence is being expressed in a living organism than many of the alternatives, some of which might involve pulping a lot of kittens to look for the proteins in question.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:52 AM on September 13, 2011 [12 favorites]


I WANT ONE. It would make Halloween AWESOME.
posted by spinifex23 at 7:52 AM on September 13, 2011


But call if the erection lasts more than 4 hours.
posted by yerfatma at 7:53 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, I wouldn't trip over my glow in the dark cat in the night. On the other hand, a glow in the dark staring into your face waiting for food until you woke up would be even creepier than usual.

I wonder if the savings on nightlights would be worth it for your child who is scared of the dark. Or would this cat be the monster under the bed?
posted by jeather at 7:54 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Looks like making things glow green, is about 5800 base pairs. Hello world, indeed.
posted by effugas at 7:54 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]




And just when I was starting to lose interest in the future.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:05 AM on September 13, 2011


Okay, so, to be clear: the scientists made these cats glowy in order to test their new genetic modification technique, which involves infecting egg cells with viruses instead of delicately modifying somatic cells and then turning those into clones. The successful glowy-ness of the cats proves that their technique works, and the fact that the cats passed their super glowing ability on to their offspring proves that genes inserted with this technique are heritable.

So now that they have proof of concept, these scientists plan to use the same technique to genetically engineer cats to have a natural resistance to FIV, using genes from primates that have such a resistance. This would create a strain of GM cats who are born with FIV resistance and could pass it on.

So this particular technique would only work in humans to create HIV resistance is if we genetically engineered human eggs and created genetically engineered humans who were born with HIV resistance due to artificially inserted monkey genes.

Somehow I do not see this becoming a popular solution to the problem of AIDS.

(The glowing cats look cool, though.)
posted by BlueJae at 8:09 AM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would only work in the First world where people can afford to genetically engineer their children.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:11 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The successful glowy-ness of the cats proves that their technique works

What's funny is there are probably like a hundred other genetic modifications they could have performed—different colored eyes, no whiskers, rounded ears, plays poker—but in the end they go with "glow in the dark."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:18 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


using computerized axial tomography scans.

i have no idea how they could do that


Pretty sure it has something to do with the 5D Rubik's Cube.
posted by aught at 8:20 AM on September 13, 2011


pulping a lot of kittens to look for the proteins in question

The real problem with cat smoothies is that they always have hair in them.
posted by bonehead at 8:26 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


BlueJae: So this particular technique would only work in humans to create HIV resistance is if we genetically engineered human eggs and created genetically engineered humans who were born with HIV resistance due to artificially inserted monkey genes.

Kitty Stardust: It would only work in the First world where people can afford to genetically engineer their children.

Not really. Most genetic engineering in biology is done with the goal of understanding the metabolic pathways that are responsible for a given biological feature, mechanism, or form of variance. The payoff of engineered FIV-resistant cats isn't the cat or the technique, it's the knowledge that a specific gene is important to the development of FIV. A better understanding of that mechanism might lead to new treatment techniques.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:29 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would only work in the First world where people can afford to [insert technique here] their children.

Unfortunately, this is how it often works, right?
posted by aught at 8:34 AM on September 13, 2011


Kitty Stardust writes "It would only work in the First world where people can afford to genetically engineer their children."

Wouldn't it work best where AIDS resistance would have a strong selection pressure going for it? Some obscenly weathly dude could offer genetic modification to a thousand residents of sub Sahara Africa wanting male babies and resistance would spread like sickle cell anemia without, hopefully, the negative side effects.
posted by Mitheral at 8:40 AM on September 13, 2011


Does this mean the end of tripping over the damn cat in the dark?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:42 AM on September 13, 2011


What's funny is there are probably like a hundred other genetic modifications they could have performed—different colored eyes, no whiskers, rounded ears, plays poker—but in the end they go with "glow in the dark."

I imagine that a cat is really unlikely to produce a glowing effect via random gene activity, where it could get different colored eyes, rounded ears, etc. (no idea about the poker). So there is pretty much zero chance that the experiment failed, but on a cat which just accidentally fluoresced.

The real problem with cat smoothies is that they always have hair in them.

Don't laugh. I used to know a guy who worked at a product testing lab. He once had to homogenize a beagle.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:44 AM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, wait, unless I've totally got something jumbled, wouldn't this rely on an ability to program viruses? And this is an ability that exists, apparently? Talk about burying the lede.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:48 AM on September 13, 2011


Yikes, this thread is like, funny funny funny mildly disturbing, funny funny pulping kittens, funny funny HOMOGENIZE A BEAGLE.

Really GenjiandProust, I think I'll go back to laughing, as I was hoping to do something other than cry today.
posted by JHarris at 8:48 AM on September 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


I prefer 2%.
posted by Kabanos at 8:51 AM on September 13, 2011


GenjiandProust: I imagine that a cat is really unlikely to produce a glowing effect via random gene activity, where it could get different colored eyes, rounded ears, etc. (no idea about the poker). So there is pretty much zero chance that the experiment failed, but on a cat which just accidentally fluoresced.

I suspect Civil_Disobedient was just making a joke. But luciferase is a nice little indicator as a proof-of-concept for genetic modification because it's relatively small, self-contained, extremely well-understood, alien for most species, and tends have nice and unambiguous inheritance once implanted.

Sys Req: So, wait, unless I've totally got something jumbled, wouldn't this rely on an ability to program viruses? And this is an ability that exists, apparently? Talk about burying the lede.

You're about 20 years behind the times.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:53 AM on September 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, it's kind of annoying how there's this reflexive desire to say "oh this is all about curing aids" or whatever. They did something that could allow for easier genetic modification of cats, which could help with research into FIV, which could help with research into HIV. But AIDS might be cured by the time that chain of events unfolds.

In the meantime though this could be an advance for science, or it could just be getting a lot of press because hey, glowing cats. (They came out with Glowing pigs a while ago, and that was all over the news)
So, wait, unless I've totally got something jumbled, wouldn't this rely on an ability to program viruses? And this is an ability that exists, apparently? Talk about burying the lede.
Yeah this technology has been around for a long time. And (to bring it all the way around) one of the most common viruses to use as a gene carrier: HIV. Mainly because it was so well researched. In fact, there was a post here last month about using reprogrammed HIV to kill leukemia.
posted by delmoi at 9:01 AM on September 13, 2011


My mistake, they're using GFP. The pathway they're looking at appears to be the TRIM5alpha family. Here's a link to the Nature article.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:07 AM on September 13, 2011


Making cats glow in the dark is brilliant from a publicity point of view -- it pretty much guarantees that this will get passed around the Internet.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:09 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]




I used to know a guy who worked at a product testing lab.

Oh, I know. A good friend worked in cancer research during grad school. When asked what he did, his answer was "put mice into blenders". This was reason enough for me to get as far away from biological science as possible.

Which is relevent to the subject at hand: luciferase insertion is a huge advance. It may mean that a lot fewer animals get destroyed.
posted by bonehead at 9:15 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It may mean that a lot fewer animals get destroyed.

It might mean a few of them get adopted. Who's snuggy widdle bioluminescent kitty? You are!
posted by JHarris at 9:21 AM on September 13, 2011


I've likely posted on this before, but I used one of the very early versions of GFP in the mid 90s to make stuff (cell death pathways) glow in the dark. Even at the time, everyone playing with the stuff knew it would lead to glow in the dark pets - we just didn't know exactly when it would happen.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:21 AM on September 13, 2011


They don't glow in the dark. They glow in UV light.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 9:22 AM on September 13, 2011


I have just come up with a way to bring light into millions of developing world shanty homes using only genetically modified ceiling cats and masturbation.
posted by snofoam at 9:22 AM on September 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Which is relevent to the subject at hand: luciferase insertion is a huge advance. It may mean that a lot fewer animals get destroyed.

Wouldn't research protocols mean that any research animals have to be destroyed at the end of the experiment anyway?
posted by acb at 9:24 AM on September 13, 2011


delmoi: Yeah, it's kind of annoying how there's this reflexive desire to say "oh this is all about curing aids" or whatever.

I don't understand your objection here. In addition to making the cats fluorescent, the research also discovered that a restriction protein that evolved for SIV is also effective against FIV. Basic research on how immune-system retroviruses interact with host cells is likely to be critical to finding a long-term cure. I don't understand how this is not an "advance."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:25 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's funny is there are probably like a hundred other genetic modifications they could have performed—different colored eyes, no whiskers, rounded ears, plays poker—but in the end they go with "glow in the dark."?

Wouldn't you?
posted by Omnomnom at 9:28 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now if they can make domesticated Siberian foxes glow in the dark, we might have the ultimate boutique pet.
posted by acb at 9:29 AM on September 13, 2011


I think the argument is that lucifersae is such a strong result that not as many test animals are needed to show high certainty in the technique. Testing is also non-destructive and non-harmful to the animals (apparently).

I'll bet these kittens live out their natural lives. Every biological test lab I've been to has a "demonstration" section for those animals the researches can't bear to sacrifice.
posted by bonehead at 9:29 AM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll bet these kittens live out their natural lives.

In fact, they have to, don't they? Part of the study is to show that these new genes are transmitted to their offspring, right?
posted by bonehead at 9:39 AM on September 13, 2011


I wrote about this here. The question the researcher couldn't answer was whether it affected the way the cats eye's luminesce. But he said the kittens were remarkably unimpressed by their own glow.
posted by Maias at 10:15 AM on September 13, 2011


They don't glow in the dark. They glow in UV light.

You keep saying this and ruining my imaginary glow-in-the-dark cats! Therefore, I will ignore you.

What's that? No! I cannot hear you!
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:32 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It would only work in the First world where people can afford to genetically engineer their children.

Man, I just had a normal kid, and now I feel gipped that the new Gattaca version is coming out. Should have waited. Damn.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:42 AM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


did you keep the receipt?
posted by elizardbits at 10:45 AM on September 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


So, wait, unless I've totally got something jumbled, wouldn't this rely on an ability to program viruses? And this is an ability that exists, apparently?

It is widely used in biomedicine; here they are using an adenovirus vector to insert a gene to treat sickle cell disease into stem cells that will eventually make blood cells. And they labeled it with our old friend, green fluorescent protein (whose name seems out of place among all the other technical jargon).
posted by TedW at 11:04 AM on September 13, 2011


You keep saying this and ruining my imaginary glow-in-the-dark cats!

UV LEDs are cheap nowadays; if you want your carnivorous super-predator horror movie monster to glow all pretty for you, just put one on a collar around its neck.

It's a cheap and easy way to take anything florescent and make it into a glow in the dark material.
posted by quin at 11:23 AM on September 13, 2011


Do you think you keep yourself awake if you produce light? I mean, do the insides of your eyelids glow? I'm hoping it's like smelling your own farts, and it doesn't really bother you.
posted by straight_razor at 3:19 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm hoping it's like smelling your own farts

Aren't we all?
posted by LiteOpera at 5:08 PM on September 13, 2011


So this particular technique would only work in humans to create HIV resistance is if we genetically engineered human eggs and created genetically engineered humans who were born with HIV resistance due to artificially inserted monkey genes.

And there's the plot to the next Planet of the Apes movie.
posted by misha at 11:41 PM on September 13, 2011


Adorable yet creepy.
posted by estherhaza at 6:51 AM on September 14, 2011


I rarely do this, but here goes:

MetaFilter: it's like smelling your own farts
posted by TedW at 7:26 AM on September 14, 2011


OK, first of all, as has been pointed out, this is not luciferase, this is GFP - green fluorescent protein, originally isolated in jellyfish. GFP fluoresces green in UV light - UV light has higher energy and penetrates further in water than the rest of the visible spectrum. This is handy for jellyfish in the deep dark ocean. Luciferase is the enzyme that makes fireflies glow by cleaving a substrate called, not shockingly, luciferin, and is also used in molecular biology. Note that "lucifer" actually means light-bearer. There are advantages to using each light-emitting enzyme - for example, luciferase has a great dynamic range, allowing you to read different intensities to something like 3+ orders of magnitude, IIRC. So it's great for quantitation, while GFP is good for localization and proof of concept. In the Case of the Glowing Kittens, expressing luciferase would allow the cats to express in regular light, you would need to infuse the cat with luciferin, which is not terribly practical.

If I'm reading Maias's excellent article correctly, it's worth noting that these glowing kittens are not merely proof of concept - they modified these cat eggs with GFP and the possible-FIV-resistance monkey gene. So the GFP is actually acting as both a proof of concept and as a marker, indicating which cats successfully contain the gene of interest.

If you're still reading this (and haven't noticed me making any glaring mistakes), I just want to address a couple other comments -

It seems as if making something glow green is sort of like the genetic engineer's 'hallo world' thing.

Fair enough. Since GFP is a completely self-contained enzyme (it's activity doesn't require adding a substrate), it's a good way to demonstrate that you've successfully genetically altered a cell. IIRC (and someone more familiar with FACS is welcome to correct me) it is also used to automatically sort cells that produce GFP from those that don't. You can use this to detect when a cell is activating a certain pathway - remember, while all cells contain the same genome, they don't all express the same enzymes. To over-simplify, just because we have access to the same internet doesn't mean we're all visiting the same webpages.

Looks like making things glow green, is about 5800 base pairs. Hello world, indeed

Er,
1) That is luciferase, not GFP.
2) That sequence seems to include the vector (the pCMV referenced) - part of the delivery system.

FWIW, here are amino acid sequences for the basic molecular biology luciferase (from a sea pansy, apparently?) and GFP (from the only jellyfish I can name, Aequorea victoria. Each gene is effectively about 1000 bp (1 kb), discounting any introns that aren't expressed.

What's funny is there are probably like a hundred other genetic modifications they could have performed—different colored eyes, no whiskers, rounded ears, plays poker—but in the end they go with "glow in the dark."

Those would only demonstrate success in the eyes, whiskers, ears, playing hand, etc. This demonstrates the effect everywhere you would need to express HIV immunity (or, more accurately, the TRIM5 gene mentioned above).
posted by maryr at 12:30 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


luciferase (from a sea pansy, apparently?)

Now those pussies look like a bunch of pansies!
posted by Sys Rq at 1:26 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


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