Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

star light star bright meow
December 30, 2011 3:37 AM   Subscribe

If you think about the top ten science blog posts of 2011 you pretty much have to agree on the #1. It's the glow in the dark kitty. But there are other animals that shine for Science.
posted by twoleftfeet (13 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Antiviral restriction factor transgenesis in the domestic cat. With a great soundtrack.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:58 AM on December 30, 2011


Okay, what I have heard is that when one breeds the glow-in-the-dark kittens, one then euthanizes them and centrifuges their cells (which itself isn't unusually bad, but what an image). That is, the lab isn't full of adorable tiny glowing kittens playing with the postdocs; it's full of kittens in cages with short life spans. Is this dreadful thing true? It seems like the whole point of breeding the glowing kittens would be to chop them up and study them, much as I'd rather this weren't true.
posted by Frowner at 5:13 AM on December 30, 2011


I like two of them: the experiment showing that "superstreets" (streets that replace each left turn with a combination of a right turn and a U-turn) are safer, faster, and more economical, and the experiment showing that telecommuters (at least in a call center environment) perform better than their office-bound counterparts provided they have a good working environment at home.
posted by pracowity at 5:20 AM on December 30, 2011


Oh god those comments on the glowing cat website sure are a breath of fresh air in a world of youtube. I have never seen more civilized debate. Ok, someone said "moron", but still.
posted by Tarumba at 5:29 AM on December 30, 2011


Frowner: "It seems like the whole point of breeding the glowing kittens would be to chop them up and study them, much as I'd rather this weren't true."

Yes, that is how it seems. The article says that the glowing is from implantation of a gene from the crystal jelly fish, which is used as a marker to show that the primary gene implantation (one that blocks FIV) was successful. If one gene implantation works (i.e. the cats glow), the other worked as well.

As to "chop them up", the article mentions nothing of that. But yes, the intent is to study the cats.
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:24 AM on December 30, 2011


How can I get this treatment? (The glowing, I mean, not the chopping.) I want to spawn a green-glowing sprog.
posted by pracowity at 8:11 AM on December 30, 2011


Well, the article about the glowing kitties specifies that later generations of the cats also expressed the green fluorescent protein, so that indicates that some of them were allowed to mature at least to breeding age.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:19 AM on December 30, 2011


I have no idea how these people got their cats to glow in the dark, or why -- oh forget it.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:43 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I have to wonder how they're planning on using a transgenic cat to help prevent AIDS. Surely they're not hoping to genetically modify large numbers of people? Aside from the general ethical questions surrounding modifying the human genome (particularly in this case since it does seem to be preserved over generations) transgenic modification is not even close to safe or cheap enough for mass application.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:22 AM on December 30, 2011


That is, the lab isn't full of adorable tiny glowing kittens playing with the postdocs

As a post-doc, I would like to say just how awesome it would be if we were paid to play with kittens all day! Sadly, that is not the case. As a fluorescent protein, GFP is primarily useful for looking at cells under a fluorescence microscope (or some other fluorescence detection device), which are generally not suited for the examination entire animals, although there are uncommon, custom-built exceptions to this. In fact, the glow-in-the-dark tag that gets used in the popular media whenever it refers to GFP is a bit of a misnomer, since you need to use an excitation light in order to see the green emission. These cats wouldn't light up your living room if you brought them home and turned all the the lights off. You would still need to shine blue light at them. If scientists really wanted to simply play with cats in the dark, they wouldn't use GFP. Rather, they'd use a Luciferase gene instead. Then, just a single injection of Luciferin and voilĂ ! You've just turned kitty into a firefly! Well, at least for about an hour or so, before the effect wears off.
posted by kisch mokusch at 12:59 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would be totally worth it to have blue lights and run around in the dark bumping and tripping on things (but not the cat!)
posted by BlueHorse at 1:18 PM on December 30, 2011


Surely they're not hoping to genetically modify large numbers of people? Aside from the general ethical questions surrounding modifying the human genome (particularly in this case since it does seem to be preserved over generations) transgenic modification is not even close to safe or cheap enough for mass application.

Well, I guess the plan is to use gene therapy rather than, you know, actually create transgenic human beings (which is really, really ethically dubious). "Glow-in-the-dark" kitty here serves as a proof-of-concept, since it is much easier to make a transgenic cat than it is to achieve even partial genetic modification using traditional gene therapy approaches.

In the case actual HIV in actual live human beings, we're talking about the potential for inserting anti-HIV restriction factors (similar to the anti-FIV restriction factor in kitty) into haematopoietic cells, particularly CD4+ T cells, which means the new genetic material shouldn't get into the germ-line. And you would never use gene therapy as a preventative measure for HIV, just on people who already have the virus. The cells that get the restriction factor would (in theory) become resistant to the virus, and thus the patient wouldn't lose all of his/her T cells and become completely immunodeficient. The concept is definitely not without merit.
posted by kisch mokusch at 1:25 PM on December 30, 2011


Genetically engineering humans seems ethically preferable to the slapdash genetic roulette involved in conventional sexual reproduction.
posted by Human Flesh at 11:16 PM on December 30, 2011


« Older Phonozoic, Patrick Feaster's website "dedicated to...  |  The goal of the [education ref... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments