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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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  • Uhmmm.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:57PM (#14870097) Journal
    Does not the deliberate creation of a living creature to have a specific disability of some sort seem in some way cruel or inhumane? Or is it just me?
  • by team99parody (880782) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @04:58PM (#14870110) Homepage
    We're quickly entering an age where we'll be creating species's faster than we can kill them off; so we shouldn't get all worried when we kill them off. Last bald eagle dies -- just order a bald flying mouse.

    I'm partially kidding; but partially serious too. 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?

  • Re:Mouse human? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:11PM (#14870252) Journal
    Yup. Cause if turning a mouse into a super intelligent being were possible with a few smippets of gene code, evolution would not have produced it over millions of years.

    Often, the "good" gene combinations that produce a desirable trait have negative reprocusions that far outway the positive ones.

    I will attribute him [wikimedia.org] to blind luck on the part of the researcher.
  • by Simonetta (207550) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:11PM (#14870255)
    How much for a pair of reproducing "mice" that are a big as beavers, can chew through the aluminium siding, rip arms and legs off with their paws, and can run 100 yards in 10 seconds?

    What is stopping anyone from making these ecological monsters? Is there some kind of scientific oversight group? Or a set of defined ethical and/or ecological guidelines? Like in Pierre Ouilette's sci-fi novel about plant-animal genetic hybrids that was published in 1993 and whose name excapes me.
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:28PM (#14870393) Homepage Journal
    A lot of recent research that's interesting to me includes designing siRNA and miRNA "virus" packages to target cancers and other tumors in mice specifically bred to have increased, decreased, or normal (control) reactions to certain diseases.

    It's fun to watch the tumors glow red, green, blue, yellow, or a mixture of two or more.

    The best part is if you squish the mice a bit but not too much, held flat to a transparent plate, you can see the glow without killing off the mice.

    Sadly, this doesn't work with humans, they're too dense (can't see thru them easily), or we'd be further along with methods of locating and killing or at least targetting for excision (surgery) the tumor cells, especially when they have designed receptor tags (an offshoot of HIV research, actually).

    Now if we could just design glow-in-the-dark instant tattoos for humans, that would change color if you started to have certain diseases (say HIV or TB or whatever), now that would be super cool.

    I'd get mine as a standard-light invisible one, with a green serpeant that had red fangs if I had whatever disease, and maybe a blue afro if I was coming down with something common ...
  • by soft_guy (534437) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:29PM (#14870408)
    How much for a pair of reproducing "mice" that are a big as beavers, can chew through the aluminium siding, rip arms and legs off with their paws, and can run 100 yards in 10 seconds?

    What is stopping anyone from making these ecological monsters?


    Probably the fact that you are limited to genes that can be found in the mouse population.
  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @05:38PM (#14870468)
    True, but Rodents have the widest range in size of any mammal order. The African Pygmy Mouse is only 6 cm in length and 7 grams in weight. On the other hand, the Capybara can weigh up to 45 kg (100 pounds) and the extinct Phoberomys pattersoni is believed to have weighed 700 kg.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodent [wikipedia.org]

    So I bet with some tweaking you could have a beaver sized mouse.
  • by $1uck (710826) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:17PM (#14870808)
    What color is the sky in your world? Black or white?
    Really, when Cthulhu comes to swallow your soul and the only thing you can do is contort your face in terror and scream like a helpless girl, I hope you remember you have no rights.
    An animal is no more an "object" than a person is an "object." You lack any sort of scale, or sense of insight. Some animals exhibit more altruistic behaviors than your post does. Moral absolutism like yours is not the only way. I can decry stepping on mice for nothing more than relieving stress as unethical and still feel its ok for a cat (or desparate human) to kill one to eat it. There's a whole "scale" truly unethical to mildly unethical to thats ok, to thats a really good thing to do. Animals do exhibit sentient behaviors on a varying scale (just like people do) it's loosely proportional to the size complexity of its brain, but its there. Have you never read any Douglas Adams or any Lovecraft or any thing that has caused your imagination wonder for a moment what if? Have you ever even questioned your own beliefs?
  • by Hannah E. Davis (870669) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:28PM (#14870888) Journal
    Although I consider research on animals an unfortunate necessity, I do have some issues with your argument. For example, you say that animals can be treated as objects because they lack self-awareness... but what about animals that are more intelligent/aware than some humans? A mentally retarded child might be less self-aware than the average octopus, but an octopus is food, and a child somehow fits in a special moral category even though, logically, he/she might be more oblivious to being eaten/used for experiments/otherwise abused. It would also be possible to intentionally engineer humans to be less aware than animals, but would that be ethical? They would feel no pain and be unaware of their suffering, after all, so wouldn't that make them better test subjects?

    It just irks me when people try to claim that it's ok do experiment on animals because of their mental capacity or whatever but refuse to apply the same arguments to our own species. If your perspective is that humans are automagically better/sacred/whatever, that's fine, just don't try to justify it with arguments that make no sense.
  • by tector (959062) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:29PM (#14870896)
    It is interesting that this thread sparked a discussion of the morality of manipulating the genes of these mice to cause deliberate malformations that are not in the best interest of the mice.

    Why would we suddenly have attitudes towards mice that are any different from other animals in our charge? We selectively breed pigs specifically for desired ratios of fat to flesh; breed chickens using hormones that result in an "adult" chicken in a fraction of the conventional time; inject bovine with hormones to stimulate lactation and production; all in an effort that is not in the best interest of the animals, but in the best [immediate] interest of the purveyor.

    Looking to the human world, and we turn a blind eye (I apologize for that really mixed up metaphor) from rampant genocide (genocide: a friendly name for killing everyone of a particular genus) in The Sudan because it's in the best interest of Chevron, we never did hold Union Carbide/Dow Chemical to task and provide meaningfully relief to the citizens of Bhopal, but let Texas jail Dianne Wilson for hanging a f*cking protest banner all the while ..

    we don't even raise a whisper about the human genetic mutilation caused by chemical contaminations in Vietnam, Halabja, Toulouse, Venice, Midland - MI, New Plymouth - New Zealand, etc..

    Since we clearly do not care about our fellow man and child, but are content to let the corporations dictate the new morality, why the hell should we give a rat's ass about the welfare of a mouse ?

    If we accept the theory that we may take liberties with the members of the Mus genus, since we are the superior beings and our benefit outweighs the detriment inflicted, then it is an easy step to rationalize the ill treatment of the third world, and anyone living in Michigan, as justifiable if it in any way benefits the upper middle classes, and that is exactly what we have done.

    How we treat our animals today is how we will treat each other tomorrow.
  • by kiracatgirl (791797) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @06:41PM (#14870981)
    Not to conduct such research on mice and let hundreds of thousands of people die of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

    And yet it's perfectly alright to eliminate all natural population controls of homo sapiens - resulting in overpopulation to the point of using up our resources, so all the billions of humans can suffer miserable lives before they inevitably die of dehydration or starvation?
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @07:01PM (#14871164) Homepage Journal
    Actually, that sounds like a pretty damn cool idea. Any reason one couldn't use a tattooing dye/ink that absorbed daytime light to glow in the dark/night? Has anyone ever heard of something like this being done?

    Well, we do have light-emitting biochemical modifications added to cells which can emit light in the IR and UV bands, or in standard luminescence red/blue/green. Can't see why this couldn't be a tattoo. Originally, it's thought that tattoos were a method of treating illness and providing protection, so it's not that radical an idea, as it existed in the Bronze Age at the very least.

    Is there a substance that would, if applied in a tattoo-like manner, be non-toxic to humans but have a lifetime glow effect (even if it did need to charge in the sun). Hell, I'd pay extra for that.

    Again, most of the alterations that are done are non-toxic by design, as opposed to some that have an aptotic messenger component that can trigger cell death on receipt of a signal that triggers the pathway. Can't see why this wouldn't be a good idea.

    We already have, for example, tattoos placed over medical implants that are activated by magnetism to read blood sugar levels (usually there's a specialized watch placed on them, but the tattoo is really just a marker so you know where to place it). So using them for glow-in-the-dark luminescent tattoos with medical sensor capabilities is merely just taking a number of concepts I've heard of here at the UW Medical Center research seminars and making it reality.
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @09:05PM (#14871931) Homepage

    Then I realized that given the makeup of /. (lots of "hard science" geeks)


    heh. If only that were the case. The makeup of slashdot is computer nerds, who generally know very little about science, but think it's "cool". Just look at all the dumb jokes that get posted in every single science story. There aren't two cultures (science and the humanities), but three cultures, science, humanities, and technology. There's a little crossover between the sciences and technologies, with each group thinking they understand the other (but really don't).
  • Re:Uhmmm.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:45AM (#14873678)
    Imagine you were a virus or bacterium that was raised inentionally crippled to work as a vaccine for some human. Yeah, that would suck.

The tree of research must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of bean counters. -- Alan Kay

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