Cats are cute creatures that give comfort. Unfortunately, not all cat lovers can afford to have a furry animal. For some, allergies become a major hurdle. The problem is trying to be solved by scientists who want to breed hypoallergenic cat breeds.
However, is it really possible to deal with irritants, or is this just a marketing ploy?
Contrary to a common misconception, the allergy is caused not by animal hair, but by the protein Fel d1 contained in the saliva and secretion of the sebaceous glands.
By itself, cat hair does not have pronounced allergenic properties, unlike the Fel d1 protein, which is contained in the composition of saliva, sebum, in secretions and keratinized scales of the pet's skin.
The cat's fur is just a reservoir where allergenic proteins accumulate.
Hypoallergenic cats do not exist in nature.
When licking, the cat leaves the contents of the saliva on the fur. From there it passes to other objects, and dissipates into the air.
Fel d1 causes allergies in 95% of cases. In the remaining 5%, another 9 substances produced by the cat's body play the role of an irritant.
The connection with the coat is still real. The more magnificent the "fur coat", the more often the cat licks, and, accordingly, leaves more allergens.
However, Fel d1 is present on the skin of both hairless and shorthair animals as well.
The breed does not matter. The protein is produced in all cats. In addition, its quantity changes with age and with the change of seasons.
Why cats need Fel d1, scientists have not fully figured out.
It is assumed that protein is involved in the metabolism of fats, but is not vital for the animal.
So how do scientists solve the problem?
Cats are individuals, so there are some individuals whose body produces less Fel d1 than others.
Most often these are Siberians, Russian Blues, and long-haired and short-haired Orientals.
It is difficult to attribute them to hypoallergenic breeds because an allergic reaction can still occur, but their protein is be reduced to a minimum.
Genes are responsible for the production of Fel d1 protein and other allergy-causing substances. With the possibilities of genetic engineering, these genes can be “edited” and genetically modified cats in which Fel d1 would be produced in minimal quantities or be absent altogether.
For the first time, Allerca began to develop GM cats in 2004.
Initially, it was assumed that the activity of the desired genes would be “slowed down" by introducing RNA editors into living cells. However, during the experiments, scientists from Allerca came across a cat with a record low number of Fel d1, and the researchers tried to solve their problem by using conventional selection.
It must be said that this is a more complex and time-consuming process, requiring several generations of cats. In contrast to targeted gene editing, selection methods fail several times before they achieve the desired result.
Two years later, in 2006, Allerca announced the sale of hypoallergenic cats for $4,000 to $7,000 dollars each.
However, the end of the story turned out to be scandalous: the new cats were no different from ordinary cats that cause allergies.
After Allerca, Indoor Biotechnologies took up the problem.
The researchers decided to use the acclaimed CRISPR-Cas9 technology, which allows you to cut parts of the DNA.
A similar task was set by Felix Pets, which is more like a group of investors.
Despite technology and competition, the problem has not yet been resolved.
Hypoallergenic breeds do not exist at this time, and the statements of breeders that say they do is just a publicity stunt.