Gene editing could create hypoallergenic cats

Researchers at InBio, formerly Indoor Biotechnologies, a biotechnology company in Virginia, report progress en route to developing a hypoallergenic cat in a new article published online April 19 in The CRISPR Journal.

About 15% of people are allergic to domestic cats, which researchers have previously shown is largely attributable to an allergen called Fel d 1 that is shed by all cats. In the new study, Nicole F. Brackett, PhD, and colleagues at InBio performed a bioinformatics analysis of the Fel d 1 genes from 50 domestic cats to pinpoint conserved coding regions suitable for CRISPR editing. While the biologic function of Fel d 1 is unknown, further comparisons to genes in eight exotic felid species revealed a high degree of variation, suggesting that Fel d 1 is nonessential for cats. The researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 to disrupt Fel d 1 genes with high efficiency in cells from domestic cats.

Cat owner and cat on a sofa

“Our data indicate that Fel d 1 is both a rational and viable candidate for gene deletion, which may profoundly benefit cat allergy sufferers by removing the major allergen at the source,” the authors write.

The authors conclude, “Future studies will aim to develop a means for deleting the Fel d 1 genes in adult cats and effectively rendering the cats hypoallergenic, while further analyses of homologous proteins from other mammalian species may provide additional insight regarding the precise biologic function of Fel d 1.”

A version of this article appears in the June 2022 print issue of JAVMA.