GMO Kittens Bred for Research

The Time online headline reads: “Glow-in-the-Dark Cats May Help Shed Light on AIDS.” Maia Szalavitz reports:

“These glowing animals have been genetically engineered to make blood cells that are resistant to feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV, the virus that causes feline AIDS. The study could give researchers insight into fighting AIDS in both humans and cats.

While humans cannot get infected with FIV — and cats don’t get sick from HIV — understanding how the viruses work in different species could lead to better treatments and methods of prevention. HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, has already killed 30 million people worldwide, with 33 million currently infected.

“The world is suffering from two huge AIDS pandemics,” says lead author Dr. Eric Poeschla of the Mayo Clinic. “Less well known is the one in cats.”

FIV infects 1% to 3% of cats worldwide, mainly feral cats. The virus affects all species of cats, including lions and tigers.  All but domestic cats are endangered species.

“This [research] can help feline health as much as it helps human health,” Poeschla says.”

Oh, really? Let’s look at a little history. Back in the 1980s, when AIDS was first getting attention, there was a great deal of research done on FIV because it was thought that the two retroviruses were similar. Dr. Neils Pedersen of U.C. Davis was one of the leading researchers.

So far, the only “benefit” for feline health has been the development of a vaccine for FIV, which is so problematic that no feline expert recommends it, including the American Association of Feline Practitioners. The manufacturer had to completely distort the statistics to make FIV scary, in order to market it.

But over the years, scientists have come to understand that FIV and HIV are miles apart. FIV research never shed much light on the virus that causes AIDS. Moreover, the cat fell out of favor as an AIDS research subject in the late 1990s. In fact, in a 2010 Mayo Clinic paper on the feline disease, nearly all the references were a decade or more out of date. In the 2000s, most AIDS research used cell cultures, fetal kittens, and molecular techniques to elucidate the virus’ structure and function. However, as molecular biology advanced and the feline genome was revealed, the cat was once again led to the chopping block. Now, scientists have manipulated the cat’s genes to make it more human-like, so that it once again becomes an “appropriate” animal in which to study purely human diseases. And once again, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of cats will be bred for, suffer for, and die for “scientific” research.

Support organizations that are fighting against using animals for research:

American Anti-Vivisection Society

Humane Society of the United States

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