Very Top Five... Enterprising applications of genetics

Monday, 14 September 2009
Genetics is the science of the future; today! It’s all about sticking the cattle prod of science into the buttock of Nature and laughing delightedly at the hilarious mooing and moaning of all those hippy naysayers. Genetic fiddling is our duty to, and of benefit for, our children and our children’s children.

For example, if we can give our children four arms and tentacles instead of a face, then we should give them four arms and tentacles instead of a face. Shouldn’t we? Imagine how easy it would be to drive and eat a delicious GM jam doughnut at the same time, while swatting flies away with the face-tentacles?

Anyway, what follows is a list of the most happ’ning and jiving scientific tinkery from the front line of genetic jiggery-pokery. And they are totally real, despite their B-Movie-ish-ness.

5. DNA necklaces.

These are capsules of DNA on a chain, and you can buy them right now from consumer DNA services websites.

Imagine having a piece of your loved one next to your heart, always…” whispers the sickeningly italicised pink text on otherwise-quite-sensible genetic assay websites, “With our DNA necklaces (in a range of colours and styles), now you can.”

Yeah, what's wrong with a photo in your wallet? Assuming you can stand the thought of being more than a few inches away from some biological matter scraped from your loved one. If not, how about putting a piece of hair in a locket for free like people have been doing for hundreds of years? No, actually I’d much rather rub a sterile swab on my cheek, send it into a freaky biolab, have the DNA extracted, multiplied and squirted into a gaudy necklace for about a squintillion pounds. Yeah, that’ll do nicely.

Besides all that, there’s something about carrying about a vial of DNA that is just gross. Imagine if it broke; DNA is a manky yellowy liquid and it’s going to be all dripping down your favourite shirt.

On the plus side, if your loved one dies, you can have them cloned. Have hundreds of them cloned, so you never have to go through the heart wrenching loss ever again. Awesome.

4. Super mice.

So there is this gene that counteracts the body’s response to endurance exercise, and some science guys have stuck this gene in some mice. As a result, these mice are able to run for hours without food or water, are much more active, and eat twice as much as a normal mouse but are half the weight.

Oddly enough, it increases their libido too. It also makes them very aggressive, and the scientist responsible said “why this is the case, we are not really sure.” So... it’s an inexplicable anger and rapey-ness. Could it be used in humans? “It’s very possible,” Mr. Science helpfully replies.

Because if there is one thing we learned from every Science Fiction film ever made, it’s that imbuing ordinary creatures with biological superpowers always turns out just fine.

3. Glow in the dark monkeys.

Glow in the dark Jellyfish + regular Monkeys = Glow in the dark Monkeys

It just sounds too good to be true and, indeed, rather pointless at the same time. But it is true; in 2009 some modern-day Japanese Dr Frankensteins chopped the Green Fluorescent Protein gene out of jellyfish, stuck it onto a monkey chromosome, and bred fluorescent monkeys.

So now they have some adorably green and glowy baby marmosets. And d’you know what they’re planning to do with them now? If you guessed "cuddle them delightedly and give them glow in the dark bananas," you were wrong. If you guessed "infect them with AIDS," you were right.

Which might sound cruel and heartless, but apparently if the monkey is fluorescing it makes it easier to study the manner of its horrible death; all part of a very unlikely-to-be-successful quest to find an AIDS cure which also works in humans. Oh wait, that does sound cruel and heartless. Bastards…

2. Transplant swine.

Here’s another one straight from the pages of “Evil Science: the definitive guide”.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had enough organs for transplants; so that kiddies with failing livers could be repaired and up and about chasing rainbows and skipping down boulevards and whatever else kiddies get up to these days. Well, yes, it would. So how’s this for a solution:

Engineer pigs with human organs. Good idea, isn’t it? As well as bacon and sausages and pork chops, we could also have livers, kidneys, lungs and hearts. What was once merely a handy snack becomes a handy sack o’ transplantable pig organs. Porgans.

Unfortunately, the use of oinkers' organs also brings with it an inherent risk of trans-species PERVs. LOL, you may say, but in this instance PERVS means Porcine Endogenous RetroViruses. Pig AIDS, in short. Besides which you’d have pig organs inside you. Children will mock you. Ew, those have been in a field. Icky.

1. Surprise paternity tests.

These take the ethical biscuit (then crumble it up, put it in an envelope and send it off to be tested for traces of genetic material from dried saliva. Puzzled? I’ll explain):

Many companies are now offering DNA testing, on almost any biological sample, of amazing power and sensitivity. (Oh, by the way, that’s instrumental sensitivity; not ethical or moral sensitivity. Just to be clear.)

The websites provide long lists of stuff that can be sent in to be sampled, from loose hair from a plughole, to unwashed coffee mugs or underwear, fingernail clippings, licked stamps, floss, chewing gum, cigarette butts, and even urine or... stools. Or biscuit crumbs. But why would you have to stoop to such sneaky measures, surely not because the man-under-the-spotlight doesn’t know he is being tested? Well… probably that is indeed the case, since a positive DNA ID on the father would mean he would be legally obliged to financially contribute to his child, and if he knows that this is a possible outcome he may not be amazingly keen to volunteer for the testing in the first place.

There is always a little footnote on these sites saying “Alternative sample media provided for your convenience. You need to get the permission of the person being tested.” Yeah, it totally makes sense that they offer this service for convenience and not subterfuge; after all, rubbing a swab across the inside of my cheek for five seconds is unbelievably taxing, inconvenient and invasive. I’d rather send in a sample of shit retrieved from behind the U-bend in the dead of night.

So go ahead and do it on the sly, without telling possible-daddy about his surprise paternity test; what better birthday gift for him than an extremely official-looking statement of fact on headed corporate paper along with a friendly handwritten card saying “OMG you’re not my biological Father LOL! The Scientists tell me that it’s likely my real dad is that friendly man who runs the corner shop.”


Optimistic Pessimist said...

I have to tell you after huffing 18 miles this weekend (I'm in training for a marathon) the gene allows you to run longer without water is sounding pretty good. So what if I rape a few people along the way...I'll still have the stamina to finish my marathon.

Ewan said...

I wish my parents had the option of imbuing my face with tentacles, I shall make sure my children have no such regrets. As proof it is a good idea, I ate fried squid tentacles the other day and they were very tasty.

Nanodance said...

Mommy! Why does Billy get face tentacles? IT'S NOT FAIR!! I WANT FACE TENTACLES!! WAAAHHHHHH!