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Genetically Engineered Cats & Dogs
Are they truly
Visit the company's website at
(Transgenic Pets). Felix Pets wants to produce hypoallergenic cats
through transgenetics (genetical modifying).
The major allergen in cats is the
glycoprotein Fel d1 that is secreted by the sebaceous glands. This
allergen is found in the fur, saliva, urine, mucous, salivary
glands, and hair roots of the cat. This protein is produced by the
Fel d1 gene. The
Allerca company (Lifestyle Pets) in California says they have
developed a cat breed that produces a different version of the Fel
d1 protein. According to Allerca, these cats no longer trigger the
autoimmune system of people allergic to cats. The Allerca cats have
been available since 2006.
New York Times writes: "At first, Allerca scientists sought a
method to delete or disable the gene. But in testing to see whether
the gene had been effectively silenced, they made a fortuitous
discovery: A very small number of cats carry a mutant gene that
produces a modified protein, far less likely to induce allergies. At
that point, the research shifted course. Allerca screened thousands
of cats to identify a population with the modified gene and then set
those cats to breeding. Because the mutant gene is dominant, the
breeding cats could be mated with normal cats to produce
hypoallergenic kittens." (Oct 2006)
These cats are very expensive. The cost of the spayed/neutered cats
varies from $5,950 to $28,000 depending on the breed. Currently,
only the Allerca Gd kittens (Shorthair) are available. They come in
many colors (solid, mixed, tabby) and cost $5,950. According to the
company's website, two new breeds, Chakan Gd (Siamese) and Ashera Gd (Ashera), will be available in
2008 Update: Prices for 2008 have gone
up. These cats now cost $5,950 - $35,000.
Allergy News - Article: "Tale of a Hypoallergenic Cat and
Standby Antihistamines", Quote: "One of the unanswered
questions, though, is whether the modified protein expression by
the mutated gene is sufficiently dissimilar or causes low enough
Fel d 1 expression to prevent allergic rhinitis, asthma and
other symptoms. Even if they reduced it by 50% or 40% or 80%, it
doesn't mean somebody with cat allergy is going to have fewer
symptoms or need less medication." (Jan 2007)
Allergy News - Article: "Allergy-proof cats, again",
Quote: "Brodie -- who insists his mutant-gened cats are not from
Siberian stock -- says he has been inundated with e-mails from
Siberian lovers who accuse Allerca of being a high-priced
copycat." (Nov 2006)
Everyday Health - Article: "Are Dander-Free Cats
Legitimate?", Quote: "Allergic people have a remarkable
ability to form allergies to a wide variety of things. I would
not be surprised if, over time, a person with an Allerca cat
starts to develop allergies to other proteins." (Aug 2007)
Messy Beast - Article: "The Murky background of the
Allerca and Ashera"
New Scientist - Article: "More doubts over plan for
allergen-free cats", RNA induced gene silencing (Oct 2004)
PetSmart - Article: "Allergy Sufferers Shed Tears of
Joy?!", Quote: "These cats are not bio-engineered in any
way; the gene that is present in hypoallergenic cats is detected
through DNA testing, which requires a simple cheek swab. ... The
truly fortunate aspect of this gene is that it is dominant, so
the gene does not have to be carried by both parents in order
for offspring to express the hypoallergenic trait. This means
that the breeding line for Allerca's cats can be kept open,
avoiding the numerous health risks of frequent inbreeding."
The Scientist - Article: "Felis Enigmaticus - A
company's shady past and questionable science raise doubts on
their promises of a $4,000 hypoallergenic cat", Quote: "There's
a lot of skepticism in the academic community about whether or
not these cats are hypoallergenic. ... We've not come across any
documented scientific study that this is a real phenomenon."
The Scientist - Blog: "Cat-astrophe averted?" (Jun
SignOnSanDiego.com - Article: "Designer pet founder
guilty in British scheme" (Oct 2006)
- Wikipedia - article about the Allerca company, with
many links for more info, Quote: "the alleged mutant cats are
actually quite likely to exist, but their hypoallergenicity
cannot be considered proven for the time being"
According to the
Lifestyle Pets website, a genetically engineered dog breed,
Jabari Gd, will be available in 2009. This small hypoallergenic dog
will cost $15,000. In the photo on their website, the dog looks like a West Highland
White Terrier (Westie) puppy.
Update: Message on the company's
FAQ page: "Because there are many more allergy causing proteins
that are associated with dogs than with cats, we do not have any
plans at this time to breed hypoallergenic dogs (puppies)."
Update 2008: FAQ posted 5-15-08 on their website says: "We began deliveries of our Jabari Gd dog in early 2008 to great sucess." The new photos of the Jabari Gd dog show a different looking dog (brown with floppy ears). The price for a spayed/neutered dog is listed as $15,000-$21,000.
also - Siberian cats
Here are a few links to Siberian cat
sites to get you started.
"allergy friendly" cats
Other possible "allergy friendly" cat
breeds are Russian Blue, Sphynx, Peterbald (St Petersburg Hairless), Devon Rex, Donskoy (Don
Sphynx), and Cornish Rex.
This page was last updated in 2008. Search the web for more current articles about the Lifestyle Pets controversy. There are many.