Seoul, South Korea South Korean scientists have cloned cats that glow red when exposed to ultraviolet rays, an achievement that could help develop cures for human genetic diseases, the Science and Technology Ministry said.
Three Turkish Angora cats were born in January and February through cloning with a gene that produces a red fluorescent protein that makes them glow in the dark. One died at birth, but two others survived, the ministry said.
The ministry claimed it was the first time cats with modified genes have been cloned.
Scientists from Gyeongsang National University and Sunchon National University took skin cells from a cat and inserted the fluorescent gene into them before transplanting the genetically modified cells into eggs.
The development means other genes can also be inserted in the course of cloning, paving the way for producing lab cats with genetic diseases, including those of humans, to help develop new treatments, the ministry said.
"Cats have similar genes to those of humans," said veterinary professor Kong Il-keun of Gyeongsang National University. "We can make genetically modified cats that can be used to develop new cures for genetic diseases."
Keitaro Kato, a geneticist at Kinki University in western Japan who has cloned fish, said the research could be significant if it eventually helps treat people with hereditary diseases.
"People with genetic disorders usually have to receive treatment throughout their lives that is very hard on them," Kato said. "If these results can help to make their lives easier, then I think it's a wonderful thing."
South Korea's scientific reputation suffered a heavy blow after much-hailed stem cell breakthroughs by scientist Hwang Woo-suk were found to be faked in late 2005. He remains on trial on fraud and other charges.