Researchers in France have studied the key early stages of a common parasite infection in cats, without needing to use cats in their research.
Toxoplasma gondii infects many different species, including humans and cats, and can cause potentially serious effects such as blindness. However, it only sexually replicates to produce more parasites in felines, and studying infected cats to understand how different strains of T. gondii arise has also meant they have to be killed after the research.
Now researchers at the Grenoble Alpes University, France, have been able to use CRISPR gene editing to change the activity of genes in the parasite, so that they can sexually develop in the lab instead of inside a cat.
Although this is currently only possible for the early sexual stages of T. gondii, the team is exploring how they can use the approach to better mimic what happens in the intestines of cats.