Glow-in-the-Dark Cats Purr-fect Pet for Christmas? or the new Copy Protection?

I have two cats, neither glow in the dark, except for that time that Macy walked in the paint I used on My Halo 3 Dance Pad .  South Korean scientists tinkering with fluorescence protein genes say they have bred white Turkish Angora cats to glow red under ultraviolet light. This doesn’t seem all that exciting to me, since when I was at Michigan State in 1997 I saw their transgenic glow in the dark rats.  Glow In the Dark Fish were Banned in California, but are transgenic pets you can get in the other 49 states.  The South Korean Kittens are cute.

image Though maybe a bit Ominous.  I means cats can give you the willies at night as it is… and having fluffy glowing red demon cats sneaking up on you could really give you a fright.

What many in the press are missing is that the Glowing is not the news. And really cloning isn’t news either.  Glow in the dark animals have been around for a long time.  In Animals Jellyfish DNA is inserted to track genes, in plants it is often a "blue" marker, but a firefly gene is also sometimes inserted in to plants to make them bioluminescent.

What is new this time around is that the DNA was modified from that of the Original.  Think of it like Watermarking a photocopy.

Why make animals that glow in the dark?  Easy to track cells.  Say you want to test stem cells being injected in to a test animal.  If you can tag those cells with "human readable" traits you don’t have to wonder where those cells took hold.  Or you can do it backwards.  Say you want to test human cells which produce Insulin, or some other human chemical in a pig.  Using a bioluminescent pig you can insert unmodified human cells and track them by noting which cells don’t glow.

Genetic markers are not just for convenience.  Companies that want to keep their intellectual property safe will likely tag their products, to prevent unauthorized cloning, and breeding of their wares, and prevent forgeries.  You wouldn’t want to buy a a knock off Hypo Allergenic kitten (which retail for $6,000 – $28,000)  , so carrying a black light to check your kitten with a spectrometer to see that it glows the right color, or carrying a test strip similar to those used in a pregnancy test may allow you to verify your transgenic animal is safe, secure, and authentic.

Personally my pets are muts, but as we step towards a world more like Gattaca, it may be that free born Kittens are a thing of the past.