Generous feline: Cat lovers in Japan donate $ 2 million for kidney research

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Cats may have nine lives, but their time on Earth is often cut short by kidney problems. For example, the Japanese who want their feline friends to live longer have donated nearly $ 2 million to the search for a cure.

As the coronavirus pandemic hit the economy last year, scientists at the University of Tokyo lost corporate funding for a study on preventing kidney disease in cats.

But thousands of Japanese cat lovers have rallied online to donate to researchers after an article on their plight by the Jiji Press news agency went viral.

“I lost my beloved cat to kidney disease last December … I hope this research will progress and help many cats live without this disease,” a woman wrote in a message to next to his $ 20 donation.

Another donor, who gave $ 90, said, “I recently received a kitten. I’m making a donation in the hope that it will arrive in time for this cat.

Domesticated cats and their larger cousins ​​in the wild are very prone to kidney problems due to a genetic inability to activate a key protein discovered by researchers in Tokyo.

The protein called AIM helps clean out dead cells and other wastes in the body, preventing the kidneys from becoming clogged.

Immunology professor Toru Miyazaki and his team are working on ways to produce the protein in stable quantity and quality.

They hope to develop a new remedy that they believe could double the current feline life expectancy by around 15 years.

“I hope that ultimately vets will give bites (to cats) every year like vaccines,” Miyazaki told AFP-affiliated AFPBB News.

“It would be nice to give them a dose or two every year,” from AIM, he said.

About 3,000 unsolicited donations were sent to the team within hours of the article’s publication in July.

That number rose to 10,000 in a matter of days, more than the total number of donations the university usually receives in a year.

And by mid-September, the donation amount had reached 207 million yen ($ 1.9 million).

“It was the first time that I understood first-hand how much my research was expected,” said Miyazaki.

His team’s research into how AIM – short for the inhibitor of macrophage apoptosis – works in the body was published in 2016 in the journal Nature Medicine.

They are also developing animal feed containing a substance that could help activate non-functioning AIM in feline blood.

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