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Ever-Happy Mouse Sheds Light on Depression 452

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have bred a strain of mouse that's permanently cheerful, in hopes of better understanding and treating depression in people. By breeding mice lacking the TREK-1 gene, which is involved in serotonin transmission, researchers were able create a depression-resistant strain. They say it's the first time depression has been eliminated through genetic alteration of an organism."
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Ever-Happy Mouse Sheds Light on Depression

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  • by mathi ( 539622 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:28AM (#15960608)
  • Brain Candy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bilbo909 ( 974603 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:30AM (#15960613)
    Reminds me of the movie Brain Candy. []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:30AM (#15960616)
    Grow an ear on his back, that'll teach 'em!
  • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by Dial-Up ( 842218 )
    I'd like the be the first to welcome our cheerful overlords...
  • by atomicstrawberry ( 955148 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:34AM (#15960628)
    If you're incapable of depression, and you're always happy, how do you know if you really are happy?
    • by sporkme ( 983186 ) * on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:44AM (#15960653) Homepage
      The same question goes for antidepressant drugs. I have spent long hours debating this with a doped up roomate as he gleefully skipped from psychoactive to psychoactive about the benefits and detriments of mommy's little helpers. I know that they got him through some difficult spots (without the psychotic episodes of his adolescence), but they also stifled his writing ability and effictively stopped his songwriting.

      He was successful in college and in work thanks to these drugs, but was he truly happy without poetry and music?

      Maybe Winston Smith can shed some light on this.
      • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:52AM (#15960675) Homepage Journal
        Most people are happy without poetry or music. (the "music" that is promoted with millions of dollars isn't really music, it's more like soft core pornography).

        So he can't write songs anymore, he can still be a shoe salemen, CEO or a Senator.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Aceticon ( 140883 )

          So he can't write songs anymore, he can still be a shoe salemen, CEO or a Senator.

          Or beter yet, a well integrated nice little drone.

          Bland little drones that accept their place in life, don't make waves and don't try to get ahead in life are the backbone of our society.
      • by feyhunde ( 700477 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:26AM (#15960743)
        I have to argue the reverse, I'm only able to write on the anti-depressants, as depression is complex and arrests my motivation for writing, as well as clearing the wooly cobwebs in my brain that make the process so hard.
      • by edunbar93 ( 141167 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:50AM (#15960808)
        He was successful in college and in work thanks to these drugs, but was he truly happy without poetry and music?

        To quote Trent Reznor: "I don't write a lot when I'm happy."

        I have a theory that says that the function of modern art is for the viewer to live vicariously through the artist's insanity. Van Gogh was famous for this. So was Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Alan Ginsberg, Salvador Dali, and Jackson Pollock, to name a few.

        Perhaps the question isn't "can he be happy without his poetry", but "can he make good poetry without his sadness".
        • by Ginger Unicorn ( 952287 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @07:19AM (#15961300)
          i'd rather be incapable of writing than be depressed. and as for not knowing what happiness is without experiencing depression that is a load of horseshit - i knew the difference between happiness and anxiety before i ever got depressed and now all that shit is out of my system and i'm happy again, i can honestly say my earlier understanding of happiness was perfectly accurate.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by StikyPad ( 445176 )
            Well that makes sense.. Happiness (the emotion, as opposed to the more esoteric version) in a healthy individual is just the brain responding to stimulus. You don't have to know what cold is to feel a burn.

            Feeling happy about one's position, on the other hand, can sometimes require additional experiences to gain an appreciation for one's circumstances. This is readily apparent in children. If they're whining about something or other, and instead of placating them you make things worse, they're happy once
        • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @11:41AM (#15962913) Homepage
          I dunno.

          I was depressed because I sucked as an artist.

          Then I quit art, and started fixing computers for a living.

          I'm much happier now.

          And I'm told my code is sheer poetry. (damn groupies)
      • by feepness ( 543479 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:11AM (#15960862) Homepage
        He was successful in college and in work thanks to these drugs, but was he truly happy without poetry and music?

        I'm not a big fan of permanently medicating the mind unless absolutely necessary... but when I had a episode of depression brought on by major illness, I wasn't thinking about poetry and music.

        I was thinking pretty much constantly about killing myself. Not little fantasies "God I should just shoot myself." No... we're talking cold, calm, and consistent thoughts. Very frightening in retrospect and even more frightening that it felt so normal at the time.

        Thank goodness I had family/friends to point me towards medical care. Lexapro changed that like a light switch, and the depression (and anti-depressants) are just a memory. But for some the depression is chronic and the treatment will probably need to be permanent.

        And yes, before that happened I never understood the potential severity and use for anti-depressants either. Anti-depressants aren't just about turning off maudlin thoughts of missing your dead turtle.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @09:41AM (#15961997)
          Thank goodness I had family/friends to point me towards medical care. Lexapro changed that like a light switch, and the depression (and anti-depressants) are just a memory. But for some the depression is chronic and the treatment will probably need to be permanent.

          And Lexapro can change your life too! Call 800-678-1605 or visit today!

          Lexapro can cause nausea, insomnia, problems with ejaculation, somnolence, increased sweating, fatigue, decreased libido, and anorgasmia. Most of the side effects experienced by patients taking Lexapro are mild to moderate and go away with continued treatment, and usually do not cause patients to stop taking Lexapro.
        • From first hand experience, my time spent on Welbutrin and Zoloft was profoundly helpful in treating my depression. I have been off all medication for over four months now and my brain functions are working well.

          My personal growth has been in leaps and bounds over the course of my therapy and I've never been happier in my life.

          BUT, I've also experienced the depths of sadness and anger (and all their variations). I am now able to experience those feelings without being drawn down to the depths of depression
      • by the_duke_of_hazzard ( 603473 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:59AM (#15960963)
        If you'd ever been depressed, you'd know the answer to that.
      • by mgblst ( 80109 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @05:22AM (#15961018) Homepage
        ...but they also stifled his writing ability and effictively stopped his songwriting.
        Well is writing wasn't making him happy, probably good that he stopped. Writing can make you think a lot about your problems, and if this is something you find it hard to handle (or you have some major problems), then it can be a negative event.

        Being happy means not thinking too much about the bad things.
      • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @11:10AM (#15962660)
        >mommy's little helpers

        That phrase is about valium abuse in the 60s, not antidepressants which take 4 weeks to begin working. Mental illness is a real illness and youre attitude certainly doesnt help. You have a friend who is sick and takes a drug to normalize his moods and you're mocking him? Calling him doped up? Gee, no wonder he's depressed. With friends like you who needs enemies?

        As far as the 'kills creativity' argument goes. Who knows. I think its vastly overplayed. "Art" created by people who are depressed or manic tends to be shit anyway. The people with real talent will always shine through regardless of moods. Tons of creative people have been treated for some kind of mental illness and they remained producive afterwards.

        If the normalization effect makes someone say "I'd rather do this now" then more power to them. Not to mention, depression kills, I'd rather have a living friend than a suicide victim songmaker.
    • by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:09AM (#15960857) Homepage
      "If you're incapable of depression, and you're always happy, how do you know if you really are happy?"

      You find that you spend less time planning your suicide than you used to.
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) ( 193358 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:35AM (#15960633) Homepage Journal
    Deactivate a mouse's TREK-1 and it acts like it's on antidepressants.

    Take my Trek away from me and I get depressed.
  • by siegesama ( 450116 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:37AM (#15960637) Homepage

    I wonder how closely depression and negative emotions like outrage, regret, etc are tied together? If I'm unable to be depressed, would I be able to care about what seems to be a series of bad things shaping the world? People I've met on anti-depressants can be pretty non-chalant regarding just about everything, so long as they're on their pills.

    If you can see where I'm going with this, you're probably a paranoid conspiracy theorist too.

    • by Eivind Eklund ( 5161 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:32AM (#15960761) Journal
      If you wonder, find out... The answer is somewhat complex.

      To give you at least some help: Part of the reason for the apathy of the anti-depressant crowd is that the most common anti-depressants are serotonin boosters (SSRIs), and serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Now, certain other antidepressants (e.g, MAOIs) work by boosting other neurotransmitters, and can handle depression without apparently leading to the kind of apathy/nonchalance you're talking about.

      With the usual Slashdot disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist.


    • by edunbar93 ( 141167 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:35AM (#15960766)
      Spoken like someone who's never had a problem with depression.

      Personally, I think that's a small sacrifice to keep from wanting to KILL YOURSELF!

      When someone's clinically depressed, the whole world is in shades of grey to them. Things that would normally bring joy are met at best with indifference and anger at worst. Interest in eating and having sex wanes. Social activities and obligations are ignored, along with housework. They feel listless and sleep more.

      Then there's the extreme sadness and suicidal tendencies.

      Personally, I wouldn't mind not caring for the 4 months out of the year that I'm depressed.
    • by LockeOnLogic ( 723968 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:27AM (#15960905)
      People on anti-depressants are not "non-challant" about everything so long as they take their pills. This statement shows a profound misunderstanding of what modern anti-depressents are like. As someone who been taking anti-depressents for most of my life (very long family history of it, suicides everywhere on my family tree), I would like to point out that these are not happy pills, mothers little helpers that makes you stop caring about the world. This is a common belief and one that is simply not true. I feel a full range of emotions like any other person, and the emotional side effects aside from the alteration of the depression is quite small. In fact, I feel MORE emotion that I would off my medication becuase depression tends to overpower other emotions. This was not as true with older varieties of anti-depressents, but the modern SSRI's [] have a minimal inhibitive effect on the range, duration, and power of my negative emotions aside from depression. Even more, I actually CAN get depressed even with the medications if the circumstances of my life dictate it. The ending of a relationship, loss of a loved one or whatever else might get a normal person depressed have the same effect on me. However, it is now short term and recoverable, that is, normal.

      Society should think of modern anti-depressents as you would a prosthetic for a person born without a leg. Although unnatural, it corrects a problem, bringing sufferers closer to "normal". Of course, becuase you cannot SEE my handicap, people assume that it is not there, and my condition is a character flaw or choice. This is not true, I have no control over it just as a schizophrenic has no choice in the perception of their hallucinations. Not everyone who is depressed needs these aids, but for sufferers of long term, chronic depression these medications are lifesavers, quite literally. Research and discoveries like those in the article bolster my confidence that future treatments will bring me even closer to normal.

      I am surpremely grateful that I live in the age of modern psychopharmacology, I am quite positive that I would not be here if it did not exist.
    • by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @08:25AM (#15961523)
      I am a depression immune person who lives with and dates a bipolar woman. I swear that almost every single friend of mine through my girlfriend has some form of depression or another. The biggest difference between me and them is that I don't get irrationally depressed for long periods of time. Everyone gets sad when their dog dies. Resistance to depression doesn't mean that you don't get frustrated or sad. If you take away these emotions you would probably cease to be a truly functional human. You need a little sadness and regret now and then to keep you functional in society and able to maintain human relationships. The big difference is the duration of the depression, the depth of the depression, and the level of tragedy it takes to invoke it.

      A truly depressed person can be provoked into a feeling of uselessness over trivial or simply non-existent events. The depression can result in more then just a little remorse or sadness. They can want to kill themselves or refuse to do anything. Further, such depression can last far longer then is appropriate. If you are depression resistant on the other hand, you keep on pushing forward. You never get the "lay down and die" feeling. You can still be sad, frustrated, or remorseful, but such feelings are not so over powering that you can't do anything else

      Personally, I applaud any good research into depression. Despite arguments to the contrary, depression IS an illness that is completely worthy of treatment. While depression can be invoked through events in one's life, some times (if not most of the time) it is a purely physical problem in the brain that deserves treatment like any other disease. That is not to imply that psychotherapy does not have its uses, but the belief that a depressed person can simply be talked out of a depression is utterly insane and down right dangerous for some. If all that is standing between happiness in a depressed person is a flipped chemical switch in the brain, they should have the option of getting that switch flipped. I appreciate the work of tortured artists as much as anyone, but I don't want to see my loved ones suffer or pull a Kurt Cobain just to keep my MP3 player filled.
    • by d3xt3r ( 527989 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @08:42AM (#15961606)

      The parent post and a number of other posts in this thread showcase the lack of understanding people have of depression and the medication used to treat it.

      Depression is not sadness. It a serious mental illness that has very detrimental effects on a person's well being and livelyhood. There is no relationship between depression or its treatment and ones ability to feel emotions like outrage and regret.

      Antidepressants are used to treat clinical depression. They are not "happy pills." I personally suffered from depression combined with panic disorder that set in approximately two years ago. Since then I have been taking Lexapro which effectively treated my depression and continues to treat my panic disorder. I don't run around feeling happy all day and I still very much posess the ability to feel sad, happy, angry, outraged and regretful.

      I especially can't believe the parent's comment about people being non-chalant while on antidepressants. People who make the decision to take antidepressants don't just pop them like tylenol. They take antidepressants because of a mental illness. Did you consider that it could be the depression that is making these people non-chalant? When you're consumed by your own depression it's a little bit difficult not to be non-chalant about what's going on around you. You have bigger things to worry about.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mutterc ( 828335 )

        There's a great data point that shows that antidepressants don't artificially make you happy.

        They don't have any street value. If they made you happy (that's pretty much what "getting high" means) then people would illicitly abuse them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mutterc ( 828335 )

      If I'm unable to be depressed, would I be able to care about what seems to be a series of bad things shaping the world?

      Sometimes it's better not to care. Imagine if, like many here, you're gifted with the ability to see patterns and how things work. Apply this to everyday life as represented in /., or by working in the programming industry. Consequences:

      • You're convinced that the U.S. is going to be a bankrupt third-world country in your lifetime, and most of the world economy will likely follow. This
  • Whilst this seems like it could be useful if applied to humans, what kind of effect is it going to have at times that it might be appropriate to be depressed (ie. greiving period after a death, etc.)?

    • This research will never be applied to humans. But it is a good (I assume anyway FTFA) step forward to allow the genetic alteration of depression. Depression isn't feeling depressed, but having a genetic defficiency that makes it so you have difficulty leaving a depression (and let's not get into bipolar). Someone that doesn't have this genetic defficiency still gets depressed, as does someone who takes anti-depression medication. But eventually they will leave the depression (although in extreme cases they
    • by mrjb ( 547783 )
      It is normal to grieve after a death, but this isn't the same as being depressed (although I've seen people fall into depression after a death). Depression knows no reason - it can make someone feel down for no reason at all.

      Even if biochemically they may be similar, there is a major difference: Grief is a temporary imbalance in body chemistry, whereas depression is a new balance altogether.
  • Reavers?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kafkar ( 820561 )
    Hmm, sounds like we might have some reaver mice on our hands in a few years.
  • by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:41AM (#15960647) Journal
    Kill the damn things before they escape, learn to talk, and start asking us if "we are having a case of the Mondays"

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:43AM (#15960650) Homepage Journal
    humans can have very similar experience: just quit work and start smoking pot, eating magic mushrooms and dancing on the streets in the nude.

    Is it a good idea to get rid of stress-related (causing) mechansims? A stress free life maybe a very exciting prospect for an individual for about a month or a year, but is this going to be good from point of view of the bigger picture? If humans did not stress about things at all, would they bother doing anything, like bothering to find food, protecting the offspring, basically surviving as a species?
  • by Heir Of The Mess ( 939658 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:45AM (#15960657)
    TREK-1 has an important role in neuroprotection against epilepsy and brain and spinal chord ischemia. So there are some very adverse side effects to this.

    The article seems very light. There's lots of interesting stuff to be found if you google for "trek-1 gene".
  • by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:46AM (#15960659)
    Hey, maybe the scientists can use this to their advantage. Something like this:

    PETA spokesman: You're abusing animals in your lab, you fiend.

    Scientist: But they're happy!

    PETA spokesman: How can they be happy with you jabbing them with needles every half hour? Among OTHER things.

    Scientist: Easy - they're permanently cheerful, no matter what we do to 'em. We engineered 'em that way.

    PETA spokesman: >.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Denial93 ( 773403 )
      And when they manage to create a drug that makes you more happy/motivated/industrious/intelligent (all related factors!) without noticable side effects, you'll get an interesting situation.

      If it is regarded ethically acceptable to ask people to take them (or unethical to deny them access!), they will become a commodity item at least for the rich, depending on production prices. I expect employers who fire people who do not use such drugs, insurances with better rates for users, politicians demanding a supp
  • since this will actually help in disabling the gene with new types of drugs. Getting caught in a depression loop is no fun at all... There is a difference between being resistent to depression and always happy. Unhappiness is one thing, which goes up quickly and goes away quickly. A depression is something that builds up over time accumulating through failures and that needs some kind of treatment.

    The point here is to catch on to better treatments because even if the depression-triggering factors are remo

  • I'm all for medical advances and improving people's lives, but something just doesn't sit well with genetically engineering happy people.

    I mean, call me old-fashioned, but we are people exactly because we have the full spectrum of emotions, all of which have influenced our society and creativity.

    Sure, a society full of happy people is a nice goal to strive towards, but isn't the right way to approach this actually improving society, to make it more suitable for humans, and a happier environment to live in?

    • I mean, call me old-fashioned, but we are people exactly because we have the full spectrum of emotions, all of which have influenced our society and creativity.

      What if there were people that already had this genetic difference naturally. Are they somehow less than human?

      The problem as I see it is that unhappiness is often what fuels innovation. If everyone is sitting around completely content with their lives all the time, who's going to come up with anything new?
      • What if there were people that already had this genetic difference naturally. Are they somehow less than human?

        Of course not. But I'm still not sold on genetically engineering other people to be like them. I mean, we are not talking about some horrible condition.

        It's like genetically engineering everybody to have blue eyes. Is it really necessary?
  • by TheLoneCabbage ( 323135 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:08AM (#15960703) Homepage

    Mice wake up, eat, sh!t and run on their wheel.

    Mice DON'T change the world. Mice invent new tools to save back breaking labor.

    Mice don't feel taunted by the universe, to figure out it's secrets.

    Mice don't get depressed because a loved one is dying of cancer, and work tirelessly seeking, supporting, and funding medical research. (then again I think Mice get the raw end of this particular desire of Man)

    I am not a rat in cage.

    I am not a tool to be made happy so I can work longer at a job I should hate.

    Keep your chemical paradise, I'll take life for all it's worth.

  • by starling ( 26204 ) <> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:10AM (#15960707)
    If they can breed a Goth that's permanently cheerful *then* I'll be impressed.
  • I know a lot of people who have struggled with depression, and I really hope more effective treatments are created as a result of this study. But, and this is a big "but" (not the J Lo kind), this kind of treatment practically begs for "A Brave New World" type exploitation by a government (even a "benign" one). Considering all of the other means by which some governments force their will upon a population, they would be stupid not to take advantage of this type of advanced "happy pill."

    Of course, it's p
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nicolay77 ( 258497 )
      Well, I believe that it really is all the other way around. Church people want us to be unhappy, to feel dirty with sins and all that crap in order to have to run to the church to clean at least part of it, to meet and gather with more sinners to feel you're not the only one (if some other people sins then I'm not that bad).

      That's why they don't approve condoms, pills, and as the other answer to your post said, make-me-feel-happy drugs. And they control the government too (Have you ever voted for an atheist
  • Oblig H2G2 (Score:3, Funny)

    by wannabgeek ( 323414 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:17AM (#15960719) Journal
    Let's get Marvin to talk to the mouse and see if it still remains cheerful.
  • If you'd take away pain, there's not much of a strong, primary inhibitor to prevent yourself from damaging yourself (except rational thoughts, which usually take second place to instincts).

    I'm going on a edge here, as not all depressions have clear causes, but I'd say most depressions are symptoms of unhealthy emotional behaviour, like not being able to bond to another human e.g. Much like not all pain has a clear cause, but mostly it's just you hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer or such. Taking aw
    • Go away from that edge - it's sharp, and standing on it just hurt you ;)

      Contrary to popular belief, depression is to a large degree a physical thing. It is possible to treat with talk therapy, but it's more reliable to treat with a clinical diet (well over 95% reliability) or heavy exercise. It is sourced from stress, both physical and mental.

      And depression generally isn't motivating. It's the exhaustion stage, where you have very little motivation left, because you've spent your reserves.

      I'm tryin

  • It's like Serenity! (Score:2, Informative)

    by fincan ( 989293 )
    Anybody saw/remember Serenity (movie of Sci-Fi series Firefly)? Can it happen if we get rid of stress? Spoiler Alert! -------------- In the movie, somehow they took people's aggressiveness, and people simply stopped doing anything (they literally stopped moving), and they died while they are sitting/lying down like dolls. --------------
  • Two common side effects of most SSRIs:

    Increased thoughts of suicide in teens.
    Decreased libido.

    When they find you're suffering side effects of one, they phase you over to another in the hopes of dodging those side effects.

    You'd really want to be damned sure the source wasn't simply your body's reaction to its own seratonin in larger quantities before you modified genes and made it permanent. As far as I'm aware, you generally can't simply switch to a different set of genes if one set isn't working so well.
  • ... or is that just what the hyper-intelligent, pan-dimensional mice WANT us to think?
  • Some of my most profound thoughts have occurred during periods of depression. How else can one get a better perspective on things usually taken for granted? Depression even helps me prioritise things... without it I wouldn't have discovered the energy and motivation to change things I ought to.

    I would think it axiomatic that most thinkers like Einstein and Newton have had long and frequent bouts of depression. An uncaring, nonchalant, ever-smiling drone is useless in real life - unless one is a politician,
  • This is nothing new. It was done long time back when Jerry was created. Jerry has been blasted into outer space, hit upon with a sledgehammer, is perpetually chased by a cat 10 times his size, but he never ever gets depressed
  • I just now got done writing a very long (3,746 words) diary entry about my recent depression - and then I come to slashdot and find out there's a freaking MOUSE out there someplace that's living what my depressed-self would consider the perfect life. How... depressing.

    Life. Don't talk to me about life.
  • Exercise... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:27AM (#15960906)
    Sorry, yes I know a dirty word around here, but it stops depression dead. Our body is designed to do physical work on a daily basis, if it doesn't get exercise all sorts of things start to go wrong, depression is just one of them, and not a minor one.

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @06:43AM (#15961204) Homepage

    The first time I read the last line I thought it said They say it's the first time depression has been eliminated through genetic alteration of an orgasm

    I thought no shit it's going to be happy. A happy little boinker. Boinky, boinky, boinky.

  • by Ambush ( 120586 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @07:16AM (#15961285)
    So these scientists haven't yet seen Serenity?

    Wait till they get a look at the mice that end up like the Reavers!

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears