They're cute, white, and fluffy - and they glow in the dark when exposed to ultraviolet light. The cats are actually clones. They're also the first cats to be cloned with a manipulated fluorescence protein gene.
The researchers hope that the procedure could help develop treatments for human genetic diseases.
The scientists, from Gyeongsang National University in South Korea, explained that they used the skin cells of the mother cat for cloning. To modify its genes, they inserted a virus in the skin cells, which were then transplanted into the mother's womb. Four Turkish Angora kittens were born in January, but two died during a caesarean section. The two living cats, now nearly a year old, weigh about 6-7pounds.
By demonstrating that it's possible to clone an animal with a manipulated gene, the research could help scientists better understand human genetic diseases. For example, scientists may be able to reproduce cloned animals suffering from the same diseases as humans. Cats have about 250 of the same kinds of genetic diseases that affect humans.
The ability to clone genetically altered cats may also help to develop new stem cell treatments for humans. And, using the same technology, researchers may be able to clone endangered animals like tigers, leopards and wildcats.