Cloning is a topic of much debate that has uses for good and uses that aren’t so good. Being able to clone animals with specific disease states could make it easier for researchers to tackle genetic diseases that affect animals and humans alike.
South Korean scientists have cloned cats that glow red when exposed to ultraviolet rays.
The country's Science and Technology Ministry said in Seoul on Wednesday it's an achievement that could help develop cures for human genetic diseases.
Three Turkish Angora cats born in January and February through cloning have an added gene that produces a red fluorescent protein that makes them glow in the dark.
One died at birth, but the two others survived.
The ministry said it's the first time cats have been cloned with modified genes.
The development shows that genes can be successfully inserted in the course of cloning, paving the way for producing lab cats with genetic diseases to help develop new treatments.
Scientists from Gyeongsang National University and Sunchon National University took skin cells from a cat and inserted the fluorescent gene into them before transplanting the genetically modified cells into eggs.
"Cats have similar genes to those of humans," said veterinary professor Kong Il-keun of Gyeongsang National University. "We can make genetically modified cats that can be used to develop new cures for genetic diseases."
Keitaro Kato, a geneticist at Kinki University in western Japan who has cloned fish, said the research could be significant if it eventually helps treat people with hereditary diseases.
"People with genetic disorders usually have to receive treatment throughout their lives that is very hard on them," Kato said. "If these results can help to make their lives easier, then I think it's a wonderful thing."
South Korea's scientific reputation suffered a heavy blow after much-hailed stem-cell breakthroughs by scientist Hwang Woo-suk were found to be faked in late 2005. He remains on trial on fraud and other charges.