CRISPR gene editing was used to remove two genes encoding a protein that is primarily responsible for allergy reactions in cats. According to InBio, a US-based business, this is the first step toward generating hypoallergenic cats.
Nicole Brackett, who leads InBio’s CRISPR cat team, said, “The expected timetable for this is several years.”
Cats cause allergic responses in about 15% of humans. A tiny protein called Fel d 1 is released by salivary and cutaneous glands and is the main source of this. It is dispersed across cats’ fur when they groom themselves. As the fur dries, it can become airborne. It’s unclear what, if anything, Fel d 1 does for cats.
All cats secrete Fel d 1. A 2019 study found that levels in saliva vary greatly among typical domestic cats. It is often noticed that some specific breeds are less likely to trigger allergies. But, no scientific studies have currently support this or verify it.
Gene Editing Explained
Fel d 1 is made up of two subunits. Each of which is encoded by two distinct genes (CH1 and CH2). Many differences were discovered when Brackett and her colleagues compared the sequences of the CH1 and CH2 genes in domestic cats to those in other cat species such as lions, tigers, cougars, and fishing cats.
This shows that Fel d 1 isn’t required since the sequence of important functional genes changes very little, if at all. The only way to know for sure is to observe what happens to cats who are unable to make any Fel d 1.
“At the moment, we don’t have any specific cat breeds in mind,” Brackett explains.
At least two other firms declared plans to modify moggies to eliminate Fel d 1 in the 2000s. None of them were successful. However, because of the development of CRISPR in 2012, achieving this is now more achievable.
Various firms are looking at other ways to reduce Fel d 1. Such as developing a vaccine that causes cats to produce antibodies that bind to Fel d 1 before it is secreted.