Why do cats have stripes? How do these stripes form on the fur of some felines? These are questions that many scholars have asked throughout history and have not yet found an answer to.
A team of researchers — Dr. Barch, Christopher B. Kaelin, and Dr. Kelly A. McGowan — from the Hudson Alpha Biotechnology Institute in Alabama and Stanford University School of Medicine published an article in the journal. Nature Connections This explains why stripes appear in some cats. Specifically, scientists have identified a gene that plays a key role in establishing the traditional stripe pattern in domestic cats, and that this pattern is evident in the cat’s embryonic tissue.
Scientists report that the genes that define the lines are turned on in fetal skin cells before the cat’s hair grows, a finding not previously seen in fetal cells. This unique genetic process could be the same mechanism that creates stripes in wild cats, such as the tiger.
“There’s a relief in understanding more about the world. Biology uses the same tools over and over again, so it’s very rare to find something that doesn’t apply to a greater number of situations. It’s possible in this case as well,” says study director Greg Barch, speaking to National Geographic.
To conduct the research, nearly a thousand embryos of striped cats known as were discovered tabby. Collaboration with programs that take feral cats, spay or neuter, and release them to reduce overpopulation and improve the health of feral cats, was key to conducting the study.
The team separately analyzed skin cells from 25-28-day-old fetuses under a microscope and found a pattern of thicker, thinner areas of tissue in the top layer of fetal skin. The team then looked for genes that might be active at that point in early embryonic development. Among these, the gene that differed most was DKK4. According to the researchers, cells containing DKK4 end up becoming the dark marks that kittens scratch. However, there may be mutations or modifications that can change the color of the lines or make them thinner or thicker.
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