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hiphop-elements.com • View topic - cats that cause no sneeze?

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PostPosted: 06/27/01 02:29:00 PM 
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Coming to a Pet Store Near You Soon: No-Sneeze Cats
By Steve James

NEW YORK (Reuters) - This is not to be sneezed at: the man who cloned the first mammal in the United States -- Amy the calf -- is working on a new project, a cat that won't make allergic pet lovers miserable.

University of Connecticut (UConn) Professor Xiangzhong (Jerry) Yang said Wednesday that such an allergen-free feline could be available for sale by the year 2003. but he stressed this was not the start of a brave new world of designer-cloned pets.

The no-sneeze cat was just an offshoot of his research into using ``therapeutic cloning'' to develop cures for human ailments like Parkinson's disease (news - web sites) or diabetes, he said.

``We're just working with animal models,'' said Chinese immigrant Yang, who said he is opposed to human cloning.

However, Yang, who heads UConn's Transgenic Animal Research facility, is working with Transgenic Pets, LLC, a start-up biotechnology company, which plans to sell non-allergenic cats for $750 to $1,000 each. Company founder Dr. David Avner is still looking to raise an estimated $2 million capital to pay for Yang's research.

``For millions of Americans, owning a pet can cause serious health problems,'' said Avner, an emergency room resident at a Syracuse, N.Y. hospital. ``It is estimated that up to 15 percent of the U.S. population is allergic to pets, with cat allergies being twice as common as dog allergies.''

Avner said the company he founded with his wife Jackie will use a proprietary process to counteract the gene in cats responsible for causing human allergies like asthma, sneezing, runny nose and itchy, streaming eyes.

He said an allergen protein is secreted by glands in the cat's skin, and coming into contact with the allergen causes a reaction in some people. Yang is working on knocking out the gene that produces the protein by taking cat cells and replacing them in a test-tube with a defective copy.

The allergen-free cells will then be fused with egg cells from which the genetic material has been removed and the eggs induced to grow in an allergen-free embryo in a surrogate.

Once some male and female allergen-free cats have been made this way, more can be produced by conventional breeding. The technique is similar to the way Yang cloned a calf at UConn in 1999, some 18 months after scientists in Scotland carried out the world's first cloning of a mammal that produced Dolly the sheep.

Yang denied that producing such cats would lead to dogs that don't chew up slippers, or parakeets that don't squawk too loudly. ``Dogs?! I won't even touch dogs,'' he told Reuters. ``They are a lot more difficult than cats, we know even less about their reproductive systems.''

He said the only reason he got involved with cats was that he and his family are all highly allergic and his son suffered miserably one day after being with a cat-owning baby-sitter.

Jackie Avner told Reuters later that her husband had a patent pending that applied only to pet-borne human allergens.

``We are just interested in the human medical condition of allergies,'' she said, adding that she and her husband were looking forward to the time when they could own a cat, since they are both allergic.

The news was not welcomed by the animal rights group PETA, which said allergic owners already had the option of adopting one of the estimated 20 million abandoned cats and dogs in U.S. animal shelters.

``It's all a money game, I have no interest in what he says (about medical research),'' said Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. ``There is lots wrong with transgenic this and that. Many transgenic animals have been found to have deformities which were not anticipated or understood.

``We don't know what we're doing, but it won't stop people trying to make money,'' said Newkirk.




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