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Say 'Aaah' | Monitor / SCIENCE

Building a Better Cat: No Sneezes

July 02, 2001| Times Wire Reports

Whether this is good news may depend on how you feel about cats.

A University of Connecticut scientist says he is trying to develop a cat that won't trigger allergic reactions in humans.

Xiangzhong Yang, who heads the university's transgenic animal research division, hopes to use genetic engineering techniques to produce allergen-free felines. The asthma episodes, sneezes, rashes and runny noses that people get around cats are the result of an allergen protein secreted by glands in the cat's skin, according to Yang. He hopes to eliminate the gene that produces the protein by taking cat cells and replacing them with genes that do not cause a problem in humans.

For many people, Yang's work offers hope for joyous cat ownership in the future. About 15% of Americans are allergic to pets--which includes cats and dogs.

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