June 27, 2001
4:31 PM   Subscribe

"We feel confident by 2003 we'll be able to produce an allergen-free cat" Transgenic Pets, in Syracuse, says it is developing a genetically engineered cat that will not cause allergies, an effort that could allow millions of people who cannot now do so keep cats as pets. The company said it planned to sell the cats for $750 to $1,000 each, about the price of some purebred animals.
posted by 120degrees (50 comments total)
 
Now if only they could make a chiwawa that wasn't all dark meat.
posted by dong_resin at 4:55 PM on June 27, 2001


ha, i was gonna do a 'yeh, i hate it when my cat sneezes' type half-joke but it'd just look even crapper after that.
posted by Kino at 4:59 PM on June 27, 2001


see ^^^, least i was right.. It was worth coming afterall.
posted by Kino at 5:01 PM on June 27, 2001


anyway.. gotta go.. i've i've i've erm... left my car door open :/
posted by Kino at 5:02 PM on June 27, 2001


("Chiwawa"?)

I love some of the quotes in that article. "It's sick." Why? "If they end up with something that's not a cat, that's not fine." Why not? Who gets to decide what's "sick" or "not fine"? Not these people, I hope.
posted by kindall at 5:06 PM on June 27, 2001


Yeah.. i bet #sexoamigos would have something to say about that too!.
posted by Kino at 5:13 PM on June 27, 2001


Call me when they come out with the allergen-free grass.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 5:22 PM on June 27, 2001


Who gets to decide what's "sick" or "not fine"? Not these people, I hope.

Well, if they could produce a transgenic lion that didn't have the hunting instinct, so you could keep it as a pet, would that be sick? I can't see why transgenic domestication isn't feasible, and at that point, you really have to ask ethical questions.
posted by holgate at 5:23 PM on June 27, 2001


Shadowkeeper, like.. man, that aint grass... and i wondered what happened to my insulatory asbestos [shiver]
posted by Kino at 5:34 PM on June 27, 2001


Well, if they could produce a transgenic lion that didn't have the hunting instinct, so you could keep it as a pet, would that be sick?

What if you could create a wolf that lacked the hunting instinct so you could keep it as a ped? Whoops, we already did that...
posted by kindall at 5:38 PM on June 27, 2001


er. pet.
posted by kindall at 5:38 PM on June 27, 2001


Or a sheep that didn't get out of bed so early in the mornings.. oops.
posted by Kino at 5:49 PM on June 27, 2001


Oh yeh.. erm.. the car door.. shant be long..
posted by Kino at 5:51 PM on June 27, 2001


["baaaaaaa".... "shshsh dahhling!!.. you'll blow my cover!!"..]
posted by Kino at 5:55 PM on June 27, 2001


As long as they don't require it to eat Transgenic Pets brand cat food to survive, and it doesn't have any kind of goofy self- health issues, I don't really see a problem with it.
(Although I'd rather see it done with nanotech--cover your cat with little dander-eating robots...)
posted by darukaru at 5:57 PM on June 27, 2001


as someone who is allergic to Everything except dogs and cats, i think this is a fine idea. Though i would rather have lobster that i could eat without getting a trip to the hospital. i wonder...could they get rid of that 15-cats-living-in-a-small-house smell?
posted by th3ph17 at 5:58 PM on June 27, 2001


Cool, if I get my mom a new genetically modded cat I might be able to sit on the couch again!
posted by faithnomore at 6:00 PM on June 27, 2001


By the way, it's chihuahua. The only reason i remember that is because it's so much fun to say "chi who-a who-a".
posted by tomorama at 6:03 PM on June 27, 2001


["baaaa.. cover? baaaaa"...."..fiiiine by me if that's what you want to call it... bleet bleet bleet.. baaaaaaa.."]
posted by Kino at 6:07 PM on June 27, 2001


I'm trying to think of something bad to say about this, but nothing really comes to mind. The cat isn't going to know it's altered, and if only the fact that it's allergen-free is the difference how can it be bad?

Something about this doesn't feel right, altering a species to better our satisfaction, but I suppose we do that with just about everything, especially food.

Does anyone know the long term affects of genetically altered animals and food? Could they change into something else like a fire-breathing, but allergy-free cat?
posted by Mark at 6:08 PM on June 27, 2001


I suppose altering things may have the potential to naff up the smooth symbiosis of collective evolution but as we spin into chaos and destruction at least we wont be sneezing, cuz that would just be embarrassing.
posted by Kino at 6:26 PM on June 27, 2001


Does anyone know the long term affects of genetically altered animals and food? Could they change into something else like a fire-breathing, but allergy-free cat?

though fire-breathing doesn't come to mind, i doubt that animals genetically altered for food purposes would be too cute or cuddly.
posted by lotsofno at 6:48 PM on June 27, 2001


Kino: Smooth symbiosis of collective evolution?! Uh. Evolution is really, really far from being a 'smooth' process. It's random chance; some combinations work, some don't. There's no grand biological goal that capital-N Nature is working towards.
And anyway, altering species is nothing new. We've been doing it for thousands of years already; it's just that we now know what we're doing on the micro-level instead of the macro-level.
lotsofno: If we ever do create a new species just for meat, I think it'll wind up looking like Animal 57.
posted by darukaru at 6:52 PM on June 27, 2001


(Although I'd rather see it done with nanotech--cover your cat with little dander-eating robots...)

That's all well and good, darukaru, but what about all of us who are allergic to dander-eating robot shit?

PS. Kino: What the hell are you talking about? :-)
posted by jpoulos at 6:53 PM on June 27, 2001


I'll hold out for the rectilinear version.
posted by machaus at 7:02 PM on June 27, 2001


This is not much different from the ideas of genetically modifying human babies so that they won't be born with certain diseases or complications. It's not even much different from the concept of being able to choose your baby's hair color through modified DNA.

I can't see the big problem with genetic modification -so far-, it's just another advancement of science. Were there ethical questions when paracetamol was first used? ("Boo! Paracetamol will mean people won't understand what pain is any more!") This seems fine, although personally I'd rather genetically modify the people with the weird allergies.
posted by wackybrit at 7:24 PM on June 27, 2001


What if you could create a wolf that lacked the hunting instinct so you could keep it as a pet? Whoops, we already did that...

Well, that took generations of domestication and selective breeding: and as Jared Diamond points out, only a few animals have ever been suited to that sort of domestication. (The cat being an anomaly in that short list, as the only "domesticated" solitary predator. Not that cats regard themselves as domesticated.)

The cat isn't going to know it's altered ...

That's yet to be seen. Not only do the Transgenic Kitty people have no idea what effect the removal of this gene will have on the cats they breed; they also plan on shipping neutered product, in order to "protect their investment". For those who say that genomics is simply hurrying along evolution: isn't that about as un-Darwinian as you can get?

I asked my kitty-loving girlfriend what she thought of all this. "Why not just wash the cat once in a while?" Seems eminently more sensible.
posted by holgate at 7:48 PM on June 27, 2001


That's all well and good, darukaru, but what about all of us who are allergic to dander-eating robot shit?

Even smaller robots to eat that. Duh.
posted by darukaru at 7:55 PM on June 27, 2001


Yes, chihuahua.
Thank you.
*kicks spell checker*
posted by dong_resin at 8:03 PM on June 27, 2001


Not only do the Transgenic Kitty people have no idea what effect the removal of this gene will have on the cats they breed

Actually, I'm sure they do know, as there must be occasional instances of cats that don't make the particular protein that people are allergic to. (There are certainly known to be breeds that make less of it.) According to the article, hey know exactly what the protein is and they already know what gene produces it, and science likely found that out by comparing animals that have the allergen to animal that don't. If there were any unforseen problems with the animals, I would imagine that they'd become evident sometime in the next two years.

they also plan on shipping neutered product, in order to "protect their investment".

Well, in the event that the gene somehow does cause some kind of problem, this would be a good thing, no?

For those who say that genomics is simply hurrying along evolution: isn't that about as un-Darwinian as you can get?

Nobody who knows what evolution is would say that. Evolution = random mutation + natural selection. Neither breeding nor engineering is natural, and engineering has nothing to do with mutation.

"Why not just wash the cat once in a while?"

I don't know if you've ever actually tried that, but it tends to be traumatic for the cat (my cat freaks if I even hold it above water, which I discovered accidentally) and occasionally equally traumatic for the person trying to bathe the cat.
posted by kindall at 8:17 PM on June 27, 2001


"Why not just wash the cat once in a while?" Seems eminently more sensible.

Um...have you ever tried to wash a cat?

Even smaller robots to eat that. Duh.

"Brockman: Our top story, the population of parasitic tree lizards has exploded, and local citizens couldn't be happier! It seems the rapacious reptiles have developed a taste for the common pigeon, also known as the feathered rat, or the gutterbird. For the first time, citizens need not fear harassment by flocks of chattering disease-bags.

....

Skinner: Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.
Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?
Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.
Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?
Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!
Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death."
posted by jpoulos at 8:23 PM on June 27, 2001


(Although I'd rather see it done with nanotech--cover your cat with little dander-eating robots...)

That's all well and good, darukaru, but what about all of us who are allergic to dander-eating robot shit?

Even smaller robots to eat that. Duh.

Nanobots have little 'bots
Upon their backs to bite 'em.
Little 'bots have smaller 'bots
And so, ad infinitum.
posted by kindall at 8:32 PM on June 27, 2001


Blimey.. Trouble at mill.

'Kino: Smooth symbiosis of collective evolution?! Uh. Evolution is really, really far from being a 'smooth' process. '

Darukaru: Discounting the fact it was all just part of the rhythmic dressing on my jest i suppose a reply is in order. Lets see.. Relatively smooth compared to the end result of drastically altering something in such a way that it has 'the potential to naff up the smooth symbiosis of collective evolution' causing our species, or life on this planet in general, to 'spin into chaos and destruction' and therefore be wiped out which, as far as i'm aware, has not yet happened in this evolutionary period [pinches himself] and which, incase you hadn't noticed [takes a deep breath before he suffocates], was the general gist, not including the punchline, of my two line post which you, rather oddly, found cause to attack on the strength of one word [exhales].

'It's random chance; some combinations work, some don't'

Oh, so you got 'Darwinism for Dummies' this Christmas too.

'There's no grand biological goal that capital-N Nature is working towards'

Waheyyy.. We have a prophet in our midst.. Hail.. Hail.. Any chance of a cheap time machine.. Pay you later after i get back from looting ancient Egypt with my grab bag.

And anyway, altering species is nothing new.

"Never.." he says mid-yawn as he chomps on a handful of Mendelian monohybrid sweet peas and spits out a mutant renegade maggot, "Oh, that is strange" he blurts out, rather sharply, unnecessarily drawing attention to his new found dilemma "it must have surfed its way into the fridge on an atemoya apple". What to do, what to do, he silently enquires, before making his decision and squashing the intruder under his thumb.

[Jpoulos] Kino: What the hell are you talking about? :-)

Dunno, beats me. I just do the typing. Besides, I'm too outa breath to go and check.. Scroll! ^__^
posted by Kino at 9:28 PM on June 27, 2001


Meanwhile, in a lab far, far away, Claritin for Cats...
posted by ParisParamus at 9:32 PM on June 27, 2001


Cat bathing...did it for a living for years, along with cat-shaving...most cats are very good about it, believe it or not. If you're allergic and still want to keep your cat, the trick is to bathe it in your own shampoo (as long as it's an ordinary shampoo, not medicated or anti-dandruff) and rinse with a diluted solution of Downy fabric softener (keeps the dander from drifting).

In the meantime, there's always the hairless cat to help keep allergens to a minimum.

Jen
posted by NsJen at 9:40 PM on June 27, 2001


Or, just to be sure, try the invisible one (As an added enticement, as if that didn't sell you - They're free!).
posted by Kino at 10:00 PM on June 27, 2001


and rinse with a diluted solution of Downy fabric softener (keeps the dander from drifting).

I assume the "delicates" setting on the machine should be used? : )
posted by ParisParamus at 10:13 PM on June 27, 2001


Schrodinger's cat may either have the allergen, or not, but you won't know until you adopt it...
posted by kindall at 10:30 PM on June 27, 2001


I assume the "delicates" setting on the machine should be used?

Well, if one is found lacking a sterile loveglove.

[commits a cardinal sin and chants 'i shall never post a link in MeFi twice but i just couldn't resist' over and over and..]
posted by Kino at 10:34 PM on June 27, 2001


Dude. Kino. check your email, will ya?
posted by mathowie at 10:52 PM on June 27, 2001


Maaan, that beats outlooks 'tralaaaa' noise. i get the feeling the melody wouldn't be quite so fitting for the occassion either. :/
posted by Kino at 11:10 PM on June 27, 2001


the cats will be spayed or neutered that so the allergen-free trait would not be passed to other cats and so that the company could protect its investment.

Wow! What next? 4 year life-span cats? An annual cat subscription, perhaps? What happens when their proprietary non-allergen cat food requires faster, more powerful cats to eat it? Stuck in an endless loop of cat upgrades! What if they start shipping cats with their own web browser, that has no uninstall feature? I wonder if I can sign up for free non-allergen cat beta releases. But would I want a beta release of a genetically engineered cat? There's not much wrong with my free open-source cat, thank you very much.
posted by tmbkr at 1:53 AM on June 28, 2001


Evolution = random mutation + natural selection. Neither breeding nor engineering is natural, and engineering has nothing to do with mutation.

Um, doesn't the "natural selection" part of that equation have a heck of a lot to do with breeding? Mutation is random; the transmission of that mutation to further generations is not. If the mutation gives you a competitive advantage, you're more likely to pass on your genes.
posted by holgate at 4:26 AM on June 28, 2001


I think we're forgetting what the absence of cat allergens might result in. The Western culture is way too antiseptic. I'm too tired to look up the links now, but I know there are studies that show that dirt is basically good for you. You need the exposure to various antigens for a more responsive immune system. There was even a recent news story that stated that the introduction of cats and dogs into families with small children would reduce occurrence of allergies later on. I think we all know why the Native Americans succumbed to smallpox so easily (I'm not suggesting that this move would lead to something that serious). I feel for those with serious cat allergies, but for the greater good I'm not sure any allergen free animal is desirable.
posted by ideola at 7:13 AM on June 28, 2001


but for the greater good I'm not sure any allergen free animal is desirable

people with serious cat allergies deserve to be protected from the trolls that live in the walls, just like everyone else. or do you have something against people with allergies? are you an allergist?
posted by tolkhan at 7:49 AM on June 28, 2001


Everyone's been mentioning cat dander and fur, so allow me to clear up a misconception:

There are three types of cat allergies:
1) People who are allergic to cat fur.
2) People who are allergic to cat dander.

but the most common cat allergy is....
3) People who are allergic to cat saliva. (Which becomes airborn because cats lick themselves.)

Saliva is probably the allergen that scientists are combatting; it seems to me you can't make a dander-free cat, and hairless cats already exist.
posted by jennak at 11:10 AM on June 28, 2001


Yes, but those hairless cats. . . geesh.

As Ross said of Rachel's Sphynx cat on Friends (no, I don't watch, why do you ask?) "Why is it inside out?!?!
posted by Dreama at 11:34 AM on June 28, 2001


"I'm too tired to look up the links now, but I know there are studies that show that dirt is basically good for you. You need the exposure to various antigens for a more responsive immune system."

George Carlin has a great rant on that. I think it's true, though. Most people, if they knew how unhygenic I generally am (I won't go into any details) would think I'd get sick all the time. Well, I don't. Ironically, I'm sick right now as I write this...but it's the first time in many months, aside from the usual spring allergies.

And in case you're wondering, I'm not unhygenic when I'm doing things like handling other peoples' food.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:46 PM on June 28, 2001


There is a difference between normal exposure to germs and microbes and being unsanitary. For example, washing your hands before you eat is sanitary, and it probably isn't going to cause anyone to destroy an immunity they have built up to certain microbes. However, constantly using antibacterial handwipes,detergents, soaps, and toothbrushes could not only destroy a built up immunity, but it can also detroy good bacteria. People seem to have forgotten that there are good bacteria at work in our bodies that do good things, necessary things.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:18 AM on June 29, 2001


Maybe they should adopt that Porno for Pyros song as their motto: "We Make Great Pets".
posted by carobe at 7:35 AM on June 29, 2001


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