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Designer Mice Made to Order 382

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the time-to-start-a-mouse-farm dept.
blackbearnh writes "CNN is reporting about the world of designer mice. No, not the kind you click, the kind that scamper around and eat cheese. An effort is underway to produce mice with each of the 20-25,000 individual mouse genes "knocked out", which could lead to novel new treatments for humans. It turns out that after fully sequencing the mouse genome, the little fellas are almost identical to humans. From the article: 'A mouse with arthritis runs close to $200; two pairs of epileptic mice can cost 10 times that. You want three blind mice? That'll run you about $250. And for your own custom mouse, with the genetic modification of your choosing, expect to pay as much as $100,000.'"
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Designer Mice Made to Order

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  • by Miraba (846588) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:02PM (#14870149) Journal
    When I saw this as a preview, I wondered why this could be considered news. Anyone who works in biotech is familiar with specialty mice and the companies that make and breed them.

    Then I realized that given the makeup of /. (lots of "hard science" geeks), this could be considered new information to a number of people here. But still, news? I can only assume that when an old topic hits CNN, it suddenly becomes news again.

  • by I confirm I'm not a (720413) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:02PM (#14870153) Journal

    And no, I didn't RTFA very much.

    You know, it was the "oh so cute" comment that gave it away. Somehow I suspect that anyone paying for a mouse with diabetes is probably more concerned about diabetes than "cute".

    Jeez - I am one of those tree hugging animal rights people but your post just screams "pratt" to me. Either that or <tinfoil-hat>agent-provocateur for pharma-com</tinfoil-hat>

    .
  • Re:Uhmmm.... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:03PM (#14870166)
    its just you. humans have been doing it forever in some form or another so its not inhumane. as for it being cruel...well..life is cruel, sucks to be a lab mouse.
  • by rainbowfyre (175300) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:12PM (#14870260)
    If today's california condor isn't well suited in the modern environment; wouldn't it be better to grow better ones more able to survive - rather than forcing the unfortunate few remaining ones to suffer in an environment no longer well suited to them?

    Yeah, sure. Until we make just one mistake. Then, we have a condor that is very well suited to a suburban environment -- it just eats stray pets!

    I do not trust any human, no more how brilliant, to modify life. We don't know how the ecosystem works, and the law of unintended consequences will bite us in the ass.

    Cassia
  • by mblase (200735) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:14PM (#14870280)
    If today's california condor isn't well suited in the modern environment; wouldn't it be better to grow better ones more able to survive - rather than forcing the unfortunate few remaining ones to suffer in an environment no longer well suited to them?

    Well, part of the cause of the California condor's decline is humans shooting them for sport. So I'll assume you don't include that in your definition of "environment no longer well suited to them."

    Part of the problem is that we cannot, yet, grow better animals to survive. This article is talking about crippling mice in specific ways for medical science; eugenics is exactly the opposite technology.

    Another issue is the question of species survival. Since we can't gene-sequence an animal complete for later resurrection, especially when that animal's population is under 200 like the California condor's.

    The ultimate goal is to preserve species diversity in the wild as much as possible. Human expansion across the planet has had a far more devastating effect on species diversity in every possible environment than natural selection could ever achieve. Too few species and you have a kind of monoculture, filled with a small number of species excellently adapted to parasitizing human society but lousy at doing much of anything else.
  • by compuguy84 (886540) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:15PM (#14870286)
    I agreed with your comment for a second before realizing that creating 'better suited' condors, for instance, is really avoiding the issue. Are they endangered because they're not fit for the environment anymore, or because of catastrophic changes in that environment caused by human interference? It's sort of like putting more air in a tire day after day because it keeps going flat. Wouldn't it be better to patch the hole? We should try to stop crapping on the enviroment before wasting research $$ on creating super-condors that use smog as a fuel source.
  • Re:Uhmmm.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iamlucky13 (795185) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:15PM (#14870289)
    Genetic engineering does raise some ethical questions, but it's not like they're raising these mice to laugh at them. "Hehe, these mice are blind. Let's put them in the carpenter's kitchen to see if his wife cuts off their tails!"

    Is it playing God or using our natural faculties for the betterment of mankind? Where do you draw the line? Is it ok to make glow-in-the-dark mice, but not mice with 6 legs? What about glow-in-the-dark mice versus glow-in-the-dark E-choli (I did the latter back in high school)? Or glow-in-the-dark people?

    I hate mulling over these questions because it's so hard to set a standard to judge them by, but they have to be asked or it gets out of control.
  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:18PM (#14870313)
    Not to conduct such research on mice and let hundreds of thousands of people die of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Mice in-vivo and in-vitro tissue models are invalueble to heart, diabetes and cancer research. They are mammals, they breed fast and a lot is already know about them.

    I work in a heart research lab where we cut the hearts out of the mice and attach them to a working heart machine and pump a blood subsitute through it. Then we test various drugs and load conditions on it. The question is would you like to volunteer so that we test the drugs first on you, or your older family members, instead of the mice so as to spare their lives? Or would you rather be assured that in hundreds of mamalian tests the durgs performed as they are supposed to and the effects are clear and reproducible.

    We abide by the rules and anaesthesize the mice carefully, we don't torture them and try to do the best we can to minimize their suffering. Personally I wish we didn't have to do this, I don't like to kill things -- animals or people, but in this case it is worth it to save many human lives.

  • Sounds unlikely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by No Such Agency (136681) <abmackay AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:19PM (#14870330)
    The amount of "genetic design" (to borrow the phrase from Blade Runner) required to make condors or any other species "better adapted to a new habitat" is simply not possible with today's knowledge of biology. Every aspect of the condor's physiology - lung function, flight muscles, temperature tolerance and body insulation, sight - is the result of millenia of "tweaking" via natural selection. We can currently barely get a single gene to express predictably in a new species, and that requires a lot of work and money to do. "Re-adapting" the condor is something a Victorian pigeon breeder would have much better luck at than a modern molecular biotechnologist - but he'd still need decades to do it, one generation at a time.

    "Knockout mice" are altered to reduce or eliminate a single gene's function, in a simple binary fashion. They are an extremely reductionist technology, used to answer quite reductionist questions of how molecular pathways behave. They are, despite their cost and sophistication (and usefulness), a very crude development.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:22PM (#14870349)
    Uh.. you don't need mice for that. For that you will need a dog.
  • by Miraba (846588) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:31PM (#14870422) Journal
    Had your polio vaccinations? Happy that you'll never get smallpox? Thank animal research.

    Consider it a necessary evil.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:35PM (#14870446)
    and what's the leading cause of heart disease in this country that scientists have to 'fix'?

    I hear you whisper it. Say it loudly. MEAT EATING AND LACK OF EXERCISE.

    It's a racket I tell ya. Crappy diets create heart disease giving doctors and scientist's jobs while mice suffer.

    I hate this CNN article. It glorifies the company. Meh.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:39PM (#14870472)
    Just out of curiousity, do you take immune system impairing drugs? Because your body regularily produces white blood cells that kill other living things.

    I'm not bloodthirsty and definitely am against random injury and killing to animals, but for the purposes of improving our knowledge of medicine and life in general I am all for animal testing. As long as it's as humane as possible, I value human life over animal life. Much the same way those animals value their lives over mine and yours.
  • by thefirelane (586885) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:54PM (#14870593)
    animals or people, but in this case it is worth it to save many human lives.

    There are many animal rights activits who would disagree with you..

    most are young, heathly, and willing to sacrifice the old for their 'moral' quest.

  • by Urusai (865560) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:57PM (#14870624)
    Exactly--put yourself in their position. They are mice. They lack self-awareness. You would be completely oblivious to your circumstances. You would not be aware of ethics, and unable to make judgements or to suffer anguish over your fate. You could not protest any more than a tree can protest. Sure, you would squirm when the big animal grasps you and jabs you with a pointy thing. You would do so because you could not choose to do anything else.

    That is why animals do not have civil rights. They are objects. Yes, I understand how people can get disgusted by some of the things done to animals, but don't confuse a natural disgust with moral righteousness. There is no rational moral basis for conferring rights on animal, that doesn't pretend that they are basically humans. To illustrate: which animals have rights? If you grant mice rights, then do flies have rights? There is no reasonable ethical distinction between mice and flies, yet I wager few people (Jainists aside) who have qualms over swatting flies. Lacking a criterion for distinction, you have to assume their rights are equal. Being competent to distinguish myself from other animals, I put myself and humanity in one class and the rest in another. Thus, indeed a mouse and a fly have equal rights--equally nonextant.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:08PM (#14870721)
    how about we stop keeping people alive when its time to go...

    Say that again when it's your son or daughter whose time it is 'to go'.

    I wouldn't like to do it, but I'd wring the little mousie's neck myself if I thought I could extend the life of my children by a handful of years.

    It's easy to be an armchair critic, though, isn't it? No risk.
  • That is why animals do not have civil rights. They are objects.

    Bullshit. And fuck you for saying so. Its not often I get pissed on ./, but you've hit a nerve. I'm sick and tired of people basically torturing their "property" and getting slapped with a $50 fine. People who torture animals should be sent off to Bellevue for extensive psychological testing.

    For the truth in advertising, I eat meat. It is wrong to eat meat unless the animal from which it came was slaughtered in the most humane way possible.

    There is no rational moral basis for conferring rights on animal

    How about it is wrong to inflict unnecessary pain on a living creature? Animals are not simply property anymore than people are simply property. You're right on there being a cutoff and I don't know exactly where the cutoff is, but speaking purely objectively, there is a difference between torturing an animal of higher order and killing some bacteria on a countertop. I think the average idiot can understand that.

    Even then, civil rights are an entirely human creation. There is nothing inherent in being human that says we have a right to free speech, but not a right to kill each other. All rights are based in social contract.
  • Re:Uhmmm.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by boingo82 (932244) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:24PM (#14870859) Homepage
    And if there was just about anything to do with mice that would give me a healthy 35 year old body for say... 500 years, I'd be for it.

    Seriously?
    If anything sounds like a recipe for a bored, overpopulated planet, that would be it.

  • Re:Uhmmm.... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:30PM (#14870901)
    -SNIP- "is it just me?"

    it's not just you, but lots of people like you who are not familiar with the history and tremendous benefit of testing drugs and doing other sorts of basic science experiments on animals like mice and rats. if you have ever taken ANY over-the-counter medication, including something as trivial as an aspirin for a minor ache or pain, you have benefited from animal research. if you would willingly accept a transplant of a vital organ to save the life of your child/parent/spouse/self, you are willing to support animal research. maybe it does not feel good, and on the surface seems like some sort of evil enterprise to use animals for scientific research, but almost every person alive today (certainly a vast majority of people sitting at a computer engaged in an online discussion) has benefited tremendously from animal research. people who do the experiments, speaking from personal experience, suffer tremendously (psychologically) from taking the life of another living being. but is it worth the potential benefits to humankind? without a doubt.

    anonymous coward
    (youcanthaveit@gmail.com is a real working address if you'd like to harrass me for some reason... i just didn't want to take the time to sign up for an account)
  • by mdarksbane (587589) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:44PM (#14871017)
    I've got a bunch of friends in various biology majors. Although they are all animal lovers (one wants to go to school to be a vet when he graduates), they have all worked in the labs doing a lot of experiments on mice. And they all agree, that the more time you spend around the things the less you feel that they are cute little animals that we shouldn't be experimenting on.

    They are cruel, cannibalistic, disgusting animals. They will breed constantly and eat their own children, or perhaps just nibble off half of an ear and leave them to live. Anyone who's kept mice as pets know that having more than one only really works out with two females - a mixed pair will breed a million babies (and then eat them) and with two males one will eventually kill the other over territory.

    So, yes, while I think it should be done in as painless of a manner as possible (and to actual justifiable scientific benefit), I think that killing a few of them to save human lives is completely worth it.

    Of course, I'm sure anyone looking at humanity from a far enough vantage point would feel the same about us. Doesn't make them wrong, though, from that viewpoint.
  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @07:27PM (#14871347)
    We'll get the drugs and the anaesthesia ready. See you then. Word of warning, there have been very few studies about opiods and heart attack and use of the specific opiod recepter blocker drug we have. We will induce a heart attack, then try to see how our drug works to help your heart recover. So, yearh, see you tomorrow (might want to write a will first, just in case, you know...)
  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @07:33PM (#14871387)
    If that is the case, you wouldn't have a problem sending your mother and father to my lab. We'll gladly experiment on them instead of mice. They are older and probably won't have any more children, so why bother keeping them around to waste fresh water, food and gas on them. If they retire they'll just be a burden for everyone. If you happen to have a disabled relative, we'll put their heart to good use too, send them over too. We'll be waiting for them at my lab tomorrow! See you then!
  • by glwtta (532858) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @08:03PM (#14871587) Homepage
    Bullshit. And fuck you for saying so. I'm sick and tired of people basically torturing their "property" and getting slapped with a $50 fine. People who torture animals should be sent off to Bellevue for extensive psychological testing.

    Absolutely, because if they enjoy torturing they probably pose a risk to the people around them. The actual animals I could give a crap about, one way or the other.

    Rights are one side of the social contract, something that animals are not even capable of comprehending, much less participating in. You don't want to hurt animals? Fine. You want me not to do it? I can accomodate that (within reason), it costs me nothing. But applying "rights" to animals is just plain silly - morality is a human concept.

    For the truth in advertising, I eat meat. It is wrong to eat meat unless the animal from which it came was slaughtered in the most humane way possible.

    Bullshit. And fuck you for saying so. If animals are so endowed with an abundance of rights, what gives you the right to take their lives for your own enjoyment, regardless of how humanely they were killed?

    That's the plain truth of it - we kill animals, grind up their flesh, and turn them into nuggets. Every day. By the millions. And then we have all this handwaving about whether a few thousand lab mice enjoy being inbred to the point of being half-blind and generally barely aware of their surroundings (and growing tumors on top of that).

  • Re:Sort of sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jlarocco (851450) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @08:05PM (#14871596) Homepage
    its sort of sad that we are creating, intentionally animals with disablities..

    i know they are 'just mice' but still....

    They're not "just mice", they're medical research mice. It's hard to test a new drug when the test mice don't have the disease the drug is trying to cure.

  • Genetic Ethics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TiggertheMad (556308) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @08:08PM (#14871627) Homepage Journal
    Is it playing God or using our natural faculties for the betterment of mankind? Where do you draw the line? Is it ok to make glow-in-the-dark mice, but not mice with 6 legs? What about glow-in-the-dark mice versus glow-in-the-dark E-choli (I did the latter back in high school)? Or glow-in-the-dark people?

    Is inflicting some minor medical condition on a GM mouse any LESS cruel than raising chickens in wire cages, killing and eating them? What about cutting down a tree? Killing a small spider because they make you nervous?

    All of the things I mentioned involve people killing things for their own ends. Pretty much every animal in nature, including humans, is willing to kill something weaker or powerless to sustain itself. Humans are the only creature that stop to think about it. (Note that we generally still do it, but just moralize over the decision on occasion.)

    It seems to me that it is pretty moot debating about using mice to find cures for diseases, when you might be wearing wool, leather, silk, and eating a ham sandwich. I suppose that you could argue about the degree of suffering that is being infliced upon animals by the various fashions that we use them, but I think I'd much rather be a lab mouse that is bread to have cancer than be a pig in a stockyard. At least I'd have people pumping me full of drugs in an effor to cure me.

    Interestingly, because of the central point of my poasting, that it seems a universal law that the more powerful species will prey on weaker species, I have to say that I am *glad* we have not encountered alien lifeforms. There is a good chance that when we meet them, we will size them up as dinner, they will do the same, and someone will get eaten.
  • Re:Uhmmm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by glwtta (532858) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @08:16PM (#14871673) Homepage
    Does not the deliberate creation of a living creature to have a specific disability of some sort seem in some way cruel or inhumane?

    It's probably inhumane, that's why we don't do it to humans.

  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @08:17PM (#14871682)
    That and a bunch of other things. You know, my father has smoked since he was 12. And I won't be surprized if he will get some disease connected to his smoking that will put his life in danger well before if he just aged without smoking. But it is my father, I won't say, we'll "he did it to himself, let him die!". I love him, I don't agree with his smoking, but I would want him to live. If there is a drug that would prevent lung cancer or heart failure -- I would give it to him. The best way to deal with such diseases is to prevent and to promote a healthy living. Don't let kids dring sodas, no fast food, encourage them to exercise, hike, jog, don't feed them sugar laden crap as todlers ( most finger food is full of sugar and carbs that spikes the blood sugar) then expect them as teenagers to like fruits and vegetables.
  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @08:29PM (#14871751)
    The problem is that everyone has a mother, a father and a loved one. Who is not just a statistic of population growth but a person they love and they would want to have around longer.

    My previous post, by the way, was sarcastic. I didn't really want his parents to come to my lab so we can give them heart attacks, Naloxone and other stuff. It was just a response to the "let people die -- it will promote the survival of the fittest" comment, so I wanted to see how willing he will be to part with his parents.

    How do you describe "quality" of life. Is you "quality" the same as my "quality"? Isn't all life "quality"? Or should we just euthanize a handicapped person cause lord knows, they don't have as much "quality" as the healthy young lawyer across the street?

    I am not advicating keeping brain dead people alive on respirators for decades, but I also don't go this "quality" of life argument, sorry.

  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @08:39PM (#14871801)
    I had mice at home when I was 15. A female gave birth to 6 young ones. Then after she was done, she ate the heads of two of her babies. I was quite upset, as I was waiting for the new mice and wanting to see her take care of them and nurse them and protect them. Eventually I let them all go free. No more mice for me, except at the lab were we experiment on them.

    But that wasn't the mice's fault. It was mine -- I had human expectations for them. People constantly anthropomorphize animals. They think of them as people and assign them human qualities.. "Dog are compassionate", "Mice are cute". That can go either way. The PETA people assign them all these noble qualities and protect the animals as if they are people. People who work in labs see the mice eat their babies and think how "evil" and "disgusting they are, they almost deserve to be experimented on". The truth is, it is neither, the are not moral, they just do what the instincts tell them to do.

  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @10:06PM (#14872181)
    Lung cancer is probably the most deadly too. Perhaps there aren't many people who can stick a "I am a lung cancer survivor" sticker on the their car. Another interesting note is how today people will freely say to each other "oh, you should quit smoking" but they are a lot more hesitant to say to an obese person "oh, Janet, maybe you shouldn't have that 3rd doughnut, you should really lose some weight!" Both are serious health conditions that put life at risk, but somehow there is this discrepancy between the attitude towards each one...
  • Re:Uhmmm.... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by dapho (939695) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @11:16PM (#14872472)
    God doesn't exist, remember?

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