Do your allergies prevent you from getting the cuddly cat you’ve always wanted? Well, the revolutionary gene-editing technology CRISPR might just make your cat-owning dreams come true.
A team of researchers from the Virginia-based biotech company InBio has applied CRISPR in studies focused on reducing human allergies to felines, and successfully figured out a way to impede the most common trigger of cat allergies.
Around 20 percent of the world’s population suffers from pet allergies, but within the next five years, the team hopes to come up with a gene-edited cat that won’t cause red eyes and runny noses.
The major source of cat allergies
There is a wide range of symptoms that pet allergies evoke. While some people only suffer from sneezes, others can get dangerous asthma attacks, congestion, facial pressure, pain, and the list goes on.
Though most people will associate fur and dander with allergies, more than 90 percent of cat allergies are believed to be caused by a protein (Fel d 1) generated by cats that are present in their saliva and tears, which gets to their fur because of their constant grooming.
What are the findings?
For years now, scientists have been trying to target this protein with the aim of making hypoallergenic cats. Now that biotechnology has advanced rapidly, this could soon come to fruition.
In a study published in the CRISPR Journal, the team at InBio stated that they’ve collected evidence that CRISPR can be used to safely and effectively create cats that produce little to no Fel d 1.
To find the genes that are suitable for editing with CRISPR, the researchers looked at the DNA of 50 domestic cats and identified regions along the two genes that are predominantly involved in the production of Fel d 1. Then, these genes were compared to the genes of eight wild cat species. The scientists found that there was a lot of diversity across the groups, suggesting that Fel d 1 is not necessary for cat biology and can therefore be eliminated without causing any health issues.
The researchers then used CRISPR on cat cells in the lab, where it seemed to effectively get rid of Fel d 1 without producing any undesirable alterations. Based on these findings, the researchers believe that Fel d 1 is “both a rational and viable candidate for gene deletion, which may profoundly benefit cat allergy sufferers by removing the major allergen at the source.”
Source study: CRISPR Journal—Evolutionary biology and gene editing of cat allergen, Fel d 1