Virile Vermin: Enhanced Mice Live Longer, Play Harder, and Have More Sex

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Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, have created a colony 500 supermice. As the Journal of Biological Chemistry reports:

Parvin Hakimi and colleagues overexpressed the gene for PEPCK-C in the skeletal muscle of transgenic mice to assess the metabolic and physiological consequences. Surprisingly, they discovered the transgenic mice were 7 times more active than control mice. The mice were able to exercise on a treadmill for 2-6 km, as compared to 0.2 km for wild-type mice, and they ran twice as fast as control mice.

This greatly enhanced exercise capacity was accompanied by a large increase in mitochondria and triglyceride content in the skeletal muscle. The transgenics were long-lived and retained their enhanced exercise capacity, as well as their fecundity, into murine old age. The mice overexpressing the gene for PEPCK-C also had very little body fat, despite eating 60% more than control mice. The authors conclude that overexpression of PEPCK-C repatterns energy metabolism and leads to greater longevity.

According to the British newspaper the Independent:

The American scientists who created the mice … said that they were stunned by their abilities, especially given that the animals came about as a result of a standard genetic modification to a single metabolism gene shared with humans.

They emphasised that the aim of the research was not to prepare the way to enhance the genes of people. However, they accepted that it may be possible to use the findings to develop new drugs or treatments that could one day be used to "enhance" the natural abilities of athletes.

One observation: I find it annoying that researchers apparently always have to make the ritual disclaimer that their work does not "prepare the way to enhance the genes of people." And why use scare quotes around the word "enhance" when talking about the possible relevance of the research to developing new drug treatments? There is nothing wrong with wanting to safely enhance the physical and mental capabilities of people. Speculating on cures for cancer is fine, whereas speculating on enhancements is not.

Whole Independent article here.

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  1. I’m sure Barry Bonds is creaming his pants over this.

  2. Do we really need to be creating better mice? I have enough trouble killing all the ones that keep getting into my basement.

  3. I find it annoying that researchers apparently always have to make the ritual disclaimer that their work does not “prepare the way to enhance the genes of people.”

    KHAAAAAAANNNNN!!!!

  4. “There is nothing wrong with wanting to safely enhance the physical and mental capabilities of people.”

    Inhanced mental abilities could wipe the libertarian movement out, although they might get Ron Paul elected.

  5. Home? I have no home. Hunted. Despised. Living like an animal. The jungle is my home. But I shall show the world that I can be its master! I shall perfect my own race of people – a race of atomic supermen that will conquer
    the world!

  6. I share your sentiment, Ron.

    Nonetheless, a positive early development.

  7. Can a misspelled insult on intelligence still be insulting?

  8. JW,
    Yes, but not when it still doesn’t make sense even when the misspelling is corrected.

  9. “Can a misspelled insult on intelligence still be insulting?”

    Indeed, if a one handed troll claps, can we apprehend the sound?

  10. What happens to the enhanced mice if they don’t get 60% more food than regular mice?

    In a world of plenty, this certainly seems like a nice change. But if food sources become more scare, would the regular mice have an advantage?

  11. Where can I volunteer to be a human experiment for this enhancement? Contributing to science is a tough job, but I’ll do it.

  12. This development will intrigue Willard.

  13. P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernon’s grave in the bak yard.

  14. This is dangerous, because no one bothered to measure the mices’ Metachlorian count.

    A generation of Force-strong mice is a scary thing…

  15. P.S. please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernon’s grave in the bak yard.

    Damn, that was a sad story. Great work of fiction, but really sad.

  16. “7 times more active than control mice”

    If someone gives me with a shot that will make me 7 times more active, I will direct all of my new found energy towards killing that person.

  17. I was wondering why they specifically mention how this type of enhancement would appeal to professional athletes. Because why would I want to eat 60% more while having lower body fat, have super metabolism, more sex, and longer life? Only a professional athlete would be interested in any of those benefits.

  18. Cool.

  19. The mice overexpressing the gene for PEPCK-C also had very little body fat, despite eating 60% more than control mice.

    Would an enhanced human have a 60% larger grocery bill?

  20. I find it annoying that researchers apparently always have to make the ritual disclaimer that their work does not “prepare the way to enhance the genes of people.”

    Then what’s the fucking point?

  21. I’m skeptical. If there were no downside to this, Nature would have done it already.

  22. First commercial application – weight loss drug. You can eat 60% more and LOSE WEIGHT! Kind of like amphetamines on steroids. Or possibly, given the other effects, an unholy combination thereof.

  23. greenish – downside is obvious – you have to eat 60% more. Most animals in nature are much to close to their maximum dietary input given environment to suddenly up their feeding 60%, even if they have more energy to gather food.

  24. Then what’s the fucking point?

    Planet of the Mice.

    Damn You! Goddamn you all to hell!

  25. Good point, but the mice also seemed to be capable of exercising about 10 times more. It’s not clear that a mighty mouse wouldn’t be at least 160% better at getting food.

  26. Good point, but the mice also seemed to be capable of exercising about 10 times more. It’s not clear that a mighty mouse wouldn’t be at least 160% better at getting food.

    Not if they’re using all that excess energy by getting their little mousy swerve all the time and making more and more supermice offspring that will have to be fed more and more and whose offspring will fuck more and more. And so on. And so on.

    Mark my words, supermice will destroy the planet in five supermouse generations.

  27. Greenish, we’re extremely imperfect products of random evolution. Keep in mind that evolution sometimes meanders about in non-selective ways including bottlenecking (e.g., the founder effect and bottlenecking via random, non-selective disasters), genetic drift, and gene flow. Even when evolution is purely selective, sexual selection is the primary driving force, and it’s not 100% synonomous with classical “survival of the fittest” (e.g., enormous and unwieldy antlers). Finally, there is absolutely no reason to suspect that random mutations and natural selection would produce every beneficial mutation or combination of mutations.

    I know I’ll anger the God people and the “Nature” people, but we can do better. Indeed, we already have done better.

  28. The appropriate song would be “Genetic Engineering” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

  29. “Planet of the Mice”

    I saw them at the Roxy.

  30. I find it annoying that economists attempt to make witty comments about biological research…
    First, not every experiment is designed to have translational application. Additionally, it should be obvious to any intuitive individual as to why they made such a dislaimer; which is also why “enhance” is stated in quotes. Do you not think of steroids when you associate ‘enhancing the natural abilities of athletes?’ Overall, they are trying not to give their work a negative connotation.

  31. One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the mice will soon be here. And I for one welcome our new mouse overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground cheese caves.

  32. I love when my alma mater makes the news; it makes my diplomas from there seem worth something. And maybe, if it makes the news enough, people will stop asking me if I went to a service academy when they hear “reserve” in the name.

  33. I find it annoying that economists attempt to make witty comments about biological research…

    Somebody has to do it. People who study genetics are generally ill-equipped to make witty comments. That’s why they confine themselves to laboratories and study things that, by their own admission, have no practical applications.

  34. Man, I’d love to do a licensing deal with these guys. If they really think it has no practical applications, they’d let me have the rights for a song.

    Of course, the really hard work is coming up with a mechanism for changing this gene in adults.

  35. Hey Mike!
    If you really read what I said, it is quite possible you wouldn’t have made such a ignorant comment! Have a nice day xoxo

  36. JasonL,

    Only if the Troll then falls in the forest.

  37. a genetics grad student

    You just proved Mike’s point.

  38. a genetics grad student

    And besides, everyone knows that genetic scientists are twisted and bitter, with funny looking hair, trying only to create a super race to overcome their own feelings of inadequacy. And that hair.

    Anyways, it’s not like they need anyone’s help in giving their work a “negative connotation”.

  39. “Don’t worry you luddites, we have no intention of making people stronger, healthier, longer-lived, or more virile.”-the scientists

  40. How many times do I have to rub my magic wand if I wanna live an extra 10 years?

  41. Chris: Yes, that’s all true, but is there much reason to think the sexual selection effects will be negative given the effects that we know. Also, given that the “…animals came about as a result of a standard genetic modification to a single metabolism gene…”, it also seems unlikely that Nature just missed this one.

  42. How many times do I have to rub my magic wand if I wanna live an extra 10 years?

    Aladdin, I am pretty sure you will get zits and go blind first.

  43. It would be terribly cruel to modify a bunch of Reason geeks with this gene. They would want to have sex even more.

  44. greenish @ 9:46pm

    Nature just missed what? It didn’t miss anything. Because it doesn’t aim.

    As I understood it, mutations do not happen with equal frequency all across the genome, there are areas of higher instability and areas where it’s comparatively rare to see a (natural) mutation.

  45. “Do you not think of steroids when you associate ‘enhancing the natural abilities of athletes?”

    That’s only a negative connotation because to the scare quotes used around steroids every time there’s a “story” about them. Enhancement is good and allows me to break your arm if you disagree.

  46. i agree

  47. But Dr. Bashir turned out to be awfully useful to have around, even if he was an irritating turd.

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