11/20/2008 at 03:38 PM EST
It may sound like a Star Trek plot, but researchers have created a glow-in-the-dark cat
-- Mr. Green Genes, a genetically-engineered feline whose eyes, gums and tongue glow in ultraviolet light. The six-month-old orange tabby was created in New Orleans' Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, so scientists could learn whether a gene could be introduced harmlessly into the feline's genetic sequence. The hope is that their learnings from the space-age kitty could one day help fight hereditary diseases.
The experimentation has no affect on Mr. Green Genes' health – in fact, by day, he's just like any other normal cat – but is a step in determining if gene therapy will be a plausible way to fight diseases, such as incurable hereditary diseases like Cystic Fibrosis. Scientists used a cat for testing, because felines contain a genetic makeup similar to that of humans.
The next step for Mr. Green Genes? Seeing if the fluorescence gene can be transmitted from one cat to another through breeding. After that, he'll get to retire – at the ripe old age of 1-year-old.