Scientists Hope To Engineer
Allergen-Free Cats By 2003
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington

For those who love cats but do not love itchy or watery eyes, there could soon be a solution. Scientists in America are developing genetically engineered moggies that will not cause allergies potentially allowing millions of cat enthusiasts to become cat owners.

"We feel ... that by 2003 we will be able to produce an allergen-free cat," Dr Xiangzhong Jang told The New York Times. Dr Yang, of the University of Connecticut, is doing the work on behalf of a small company from Syracuse, New York, which developed the idea.

David Avner and his wife, Jackie, run Transgenic Pets from their home. "These are animals that are going to be loved and cherished and will bring joy," Mrs Avner said.

Scientists say most allergic reactions are caused by a protein secreted by the cat, known as Fel dl. To produce the allergen-free cat will require knocking out the gene for this protein.

Skin cells from a cat will be grown in a test tube and the gene replaced with a defective copy. The allergen-free cells will then be fused with egg cells from which the genetic material has been removed and induced to grow into an embryo. This can then be implanted into a surrogate.

Carol Barbee, president of the American Cat Fanciers Association, said many people would welcome such cats. But she warned: "If they end up with something that is not a cat, that's not fine."


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