Genetic engineering proved its capability to create superior beings. Sometimes, the results are generated unintentionally, and can have side effects that are impossible to predict, and that’s what worries us. If those byproducts of genetic engineering could be controlled…
By implanting human brain cells in mice pups, scientists have created a breed of mice with superior intelligence, a ’supermouse’. Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center, New York, fabricated a hybrid mouse with enhanced memory that will serve for studying human brain diseases.
What these researchers did, was that they injected 300,000 glial cells (non-neuronal cells, which, among other functions, assist neurons in forming synaptic connections) from donated human fetuses, into young mice. After one year the number of these cells increased to twelve million. Essentially, it is still a mouse brain as Steve Goldman, one of the researchers, told to New Scientist, but non-neuronal cells are human.
Study results have shown that hybrid mice are up to four times smarter than the normal ones.
Another part of the study involving mice with defective production of myelin (which deficiency causes some neurodegenerative diseases, like multiple sclerosis) established that some of the injected human brain cells were able to develop into oligodendrocytes (glial cells which partake in the creation of myelin).
This is a promising discovery, which will help scientist better understand the functioning of these cells in humans, and develop treatment for patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, and other neurodegenerative autoimmune diseases.
However, as with all similar research in genetics, especially those involving cross-species genetic engineering, this experiment raised a number of ethical questions.
super-mouse-04Years ago, another ‘supermouse’ was created at Case Western Reserve University, Ohio. The mouse was able to run up for five hours without a break, which is according to scientists, equivalent to a man cycling up a mountain at speed without stopping. These mice were created by modifying one glucose metabolism gene, shared with humans, which stimulates the productive use of fat, generating superfluous energy. These mice are up to ten times more productive than normal ones, they live longer and have sexually active life even in their old age, they are lean, regardless of the fact that they eat twice as much as regular mice. The byproduct is that they are very aggressive.
In 2011, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies altered a genome regulator which exists in most mammals that resulted in mice who were twice as strong as ordinary mice. They could run much faster and twice longer than the normal mice, and were much more tolerant to cold.
Of course, all these experiments were meant to find the cure for some of the most severe conditions and diseases in humans, nevertheless they were condemned by many for their potential in human ‘gene doping’.