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Bright side to black cats

Washington, March 4 (Reuters): Black cats, once considered unlucky, may have provided a lucky break to disease researchers, according to a report published yesterday.

Different genetic mutations give black coats to different species of cats. Some of the mutations are in genes that, in humans, are linked with diseases such as AIDS, a team at the National Cancer Institute and the University of Maryland found.

Dr Stephen O’Brien, Eduardo Eizirik and colleagues were wondering what made cats black — not out of idle curiosity, but because such genes often confer protection against disease. Otherwise, animals with unusual colouring would go extinct.

“In understanding how wild species like cats evolve genetic resistance to disease, we might discover new natural genetic resistance that might help in human disease,” O’Brien said in a telephone interview.

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