2007: Insulin Lettuce, Blood-Staunching Bandages, and Glow in the Dark Cats


GMO cats

Two geektastic year-end lists from 2007:

Wired lists the Top 10 new organisms (!) of the year. Highlights:

Insulin-producing lettuce

In July, a University of Central Florida researcher announced he had genetically modified lettuce heads that produce insulin. They could be transformed into time-release capsules for people with diabetes, to help them maintain blood-sugar levels without regular injections.

Glow-in-the-dark cats

Photographs of cats genetically engineered by South Korean scientists to glow red when exposed to UV light made headlines around the world. What most news stories didn't mention was the reaosn for fluorescent creatures: The animals' glow acts as a "green light" that lets scientists know that their genetic transformations of other, non-glowing genes have worked.

Schizophrenic mice

July's news that Johns Hopkins researchers had created schizophrenic mice was a surprise, even to scientists who regularly create genetically altered mice to model human diseases. In recent years, we've seen very big mice, fearless mice, Rain Man mice and a host of others. But the schizophrenic experience of hallucinations, delusions of grandeur and paranoia seemed somehow distinctly human. However, scientists recently identified a single gene called DISC1 as a major schizophrenia risk factor, leading to the creation of these mice, which lack the gene. Anatomical examinations revealed similarities between the mice's brains and those of human patients. The mice also revealed behaviors—trouble finding food, agitation in open fields—that researchers say parallel human schizophrenic activities.

New Scientist lists the Top 10 inventions of the year:

Blood staunching bandages

Bandages made from about 65% glass fibre and 35% bamboo fibre not only absorb blood, but also stimulate the body's ability to staunch the flow. A popular idea based on clicks alone, but in the comments New Scientist readers merely punned in response. One wrote: "I think dages should be banned. Definitely. Bandages!", while another replied: "Some time ago, I myself made a comment like that on a stricter board than this. I've been banned ages."

Wide-angled gigapixel satellite surveillance

A wide-angle camera that can photograph a 10-kilometre-square area from an altitude of 7.5 kilometres with a resolution better than 50 centimetres per pixel. Such a camera would be able to survey an entire city in one sweep. Perhaps predictably, the discussion focused on whether such a device would be able to see female sunbathers. "I'll bet the NSA has the best collection of unauthorized pinups in the world," mused one reader.