Mayo Clinic researchers think they might be on the road to finding an AIDS vaccine by injecting monkey genes into cat genomes. The plan is to treat cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV — the HIV for cats) and then use what they learn to treat HIV in humans.
Medical breakthroughs usually happen very slowly. It takes years of research to make a discovery, and any advance, no matter how small it may be right now, could lead to something incredible down the line.
According to MayoClinic, this what its researchers have worked on with:
The technique is called gamete-targeted lentiviral transgenesis -- essentially, inserting genes into feline oocytes (eggs) before sperm fertilization. Succeeding with it for the first time in a carnivore, the team inserted a gene for a rhesus macaque restriction factor known to block cell infection by FIV, as well as a jellyfish gene for tracking purposes. The latter makes the offspring cats glow green.
The macaque restriction factor, TRIMCyp, blocks FIV by attacking and disabling the virus's outer shield as it tries to invade a cell. The researchers know that works well in a culture dish and want to determine how it will work in vivo. This specific transgenesis (genome modification) approach will not be used directly for treating people with HIV or cats with FIV, but it will help medical and veterinary researchers understand how restriction factors can be used to advance gene therapy for AIDS caused by either virus.
Rats. It would appear the glowing-in-the-dark part is merely a side effect from the jellyfish gene. No superpowers there. Still, a new path that could lead to an AIDS vaccine is way more useful for the world's population than simply looking radioactive in the dark.