An American company called Indoor Biotechnologies, which specialises in drugs for allergies and asthma, have reported that they have successfully used a gene-editing tool, Crispr, to delete the gene that instigates the production of Fel d1, the protein (and allergen to some humans) produced by cats which is in their saliva and which is deposited on their fur. The experiments have not been conducted on living cats. The tests were carried on cells from 50 different cats.
Like science fiction…
We want people to be able to take cats to the vet, get an injection and then have that reduce or eliminate the Fel d1 allergen for good – Professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Virginia
It is hoped that in 2 to 3 years veterinarians will be able to administer an injection to domestic cats to make them fully hypoallergenic. At the moment, there are no hypoallergenic cats although there are many claims that some cat breeds and some individual cats are. In fact, cats vary in the amount of the protein that they produce and also people vary in their reaction to this protein.
Unneutered male cats produce more of the protein that other cats. This has prompted the question as to whether the reason for the production of the protein is some form of communication for mating. Or the protein could act to help protect the skin from bacterial and viral attacks.
The is concern that by, in effect, genetically altering domestic cats that there may be some health consequences. In order to allay that fear Indoor Biotechnologies want to initially try to delete the gene that produces the protein in fertilised eggs. The eggs would then be implanted into a female cat to see if the kittens that she produced develop into healthy adults.
It is suggested that the injection would probably be necessary only once or twice for a cat to then exhibited permanent change for the better for about 10% of the human population who are allergic to cats.
If the Fel d1 protein was found to be essential to cats the biotech company would probably edit the gene so that it was expressed at lower levels rather than deleting it entirely.
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