Sunday, December 11, 2005

Mighty Mice Just Got Mightier

A good while ago, scientists made mice real muscular by modifying their genes. These same scientists have now developed an agent which does the job yet more effeciently:

The Johns Hopkins scientists who first created "mighty mice" have developed an agent that's even more effective at increasing muscle mass in mice, by knocking out the gene that codes for myostatin.

Just two weekly injections of the new ACVR2B agent triggered a 60 percent increase in muscle size.

The researchers' expectation is that blocking myostatin might help maintain critical muscle strength in people whose muscles are wasting due to diseases like muscular dystrophy or side effects from cancer treatment or AIDS.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out we'll be using it in the future to enhance the non-sick too. Maybe not with permanent genetic modifications right away. But that's okay, because genetic modifications can be mimicked with the use of drugs.

We're looking at a future here where everybody will be slim, muscular, hairy (on top), healthy and other things that we all crave for but can't have due to our birth-given genetics.

For example, take a look at what other type of benefits you can have with a little bit of genetic tweaking:
We have little software programs inside us called genes, about 23 thousand of them. They were designed or evolved tens of thousands of years ago when conditions were quite different. I'll give you just one example. The fat insulin receptor gene says, “Hold on to every calorie because the next hunting season may not work out so well.” And that’s a gene we'd like to reprogram. It made sense 20 thousand years ago when calories were few and far between. What would happen if we blocked that? We have a new technology that can turn genes off called RNA interference. So when that gene was turned off in mice, these mice ate ravenously and yet they remained slim. They got the health benefits of being slim. They didn't get diabetes, didn't get heart disease or cancer. They lived 20 to 25 percent longer while eating ravenously. There are several pharmaceutical companies who have noticed that might be a good human drug.

Earlier, Ellen Heber-Katz came up with super-regenerative mice, who can regrow limbs and organs.

Right now, these sort of things are research projects confined to laboratories.

We can expect these types of body upgrades to become mainstream in the biotech era, which is slated to be from 2010-2020.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

11 comments:

Explodicle said...

(Sorry if this has been mentioned, I just stumbled on this blog.)

Some people speculate that the reason the regeneration genes aren't turned on in humans is because with increased regeneration, there comes an increased risk of cancer. Of course, if the cancer discovery you mentioned in your previous post turns out to be fruitful, it may serve to counteract this effect.

There may be a similar evolutionary pressure that turned this gene off as well. I'd like to see what happens to these mice in the long term before I get my hopes up of having action-star muscles.

Jan-Willem Bats said...

In the meantime you could do what I do: spend time in the gym for burning fat and buffing up muscles manually.

I expect technology to relieve me of a great deal of my maintainance work in the near future.

There's no need for defensive pessimism here. I always prefer to take a rational standpoint myself. Cautious optimism is, IMO, realistic.

Moray Mix said...

Hey I just came across this blog looking for others who are interested in biotech. I'm Moray, and I have a keen interest in the idea of transhumanism.

Jan-Willem Bats said...

That's great Moray.

If you put interesting stuff on you blog, I'll blogroll ya.

Goshen said...

You mentioned that our genes are like little software programs... I love that idea.... but do you think it's possible to reformat our brains? I mean, you do it every few years with your PC, to get rid of all those infections and nasties, and generally to speed things up. You can't just keep installing patches, because eventually your PC will just grind to a halt.

Can you see what I'm getting at? Think 500 years of genetic meddling. And hey, I'm all for the idea, but hope there's way to wipe the HD, so to speak.

Great Blog.

Rik said...

Hé, Jan-Willem, leuk blog! Als we het hier hebben over lichaamsaanpassing: hoe ver gaat dat dan? Hoe radicaal mag ik me de toekomst voorstellen? Of is niets te dol? Iedereen slank, gespierd met een heleboel hoofdhaar: is heel erg aardig, maar lijkt het je je ook niet een beetje naïef? Waarom zouden mensen zich beperken tot een wereld van zeven miljard supermodellen? Zien we dan ook niet extremere versies, waarin (bijvoorbeeld) iemand die gebouwd is als, zeg, shaquile o'neal, alle nieuwe tech gebruikt om er uit te zien als, zeg, kylie. Of nog gekkere versies...

Jan-Willem Bats said...

Goshen,

If by reformatting the brain you mean deleting memories... yes that will be possible.

http://www.betterhumans.com/Columns/Column/tabid/79/Column/367/Default.aspx

It is also possible to keep on modifying your genetics until the end of time, as long as you know what you are doing. You have to understand how the system works, and preferably run simulations to see the result before you actually apply the modifications.

We re-install our Windows OS'es because we can afford to. It's easier than looking in every nook and cranny to delete stuff that has made it slow and unstable over time. And much less time consuming, too.

PC OS'es and human body's differ greatly in that aspect. We can't afford crashes, because that would end our lives.

I expect there will be some more genemod screwups in the future (there already have been in the past), as long as the technology is still young. But as the technology improves, we will be able to benefit from the promise, while we manage the peril.

Hope that clears things up for you.

Jay

Jan-Willem Bats said...

Rik,

When you post to the blog, please do so in English.

To answer your question. Why would it be naive to have everybody have slim, muscular bodies?

In what way would it be a limitation?

I see it as the new standard. I say: let's just solve our pesky, frustrating, energy-eating, time-consuming problems with our physiques, so we can focus on stuff that's REALLY important. Like our hobbies... our creativity, etc.

Why would you want to be held back by your body? Your body needs to just WORK and be to your liking, plain and simple.

Evolution gave us two things (amongst others):

- rationality

- an obsession with improving our own situation

Do the math. :)

Add these things up, and it's easy to see why the coming transhuman area is 100% natural

Hope my answer was satisfactory.

Keep visiting the blog and spread the word!

Jay

Explodicle said...

I look forward to the day when I have Linux in my head. No reboots or nasties for me!

Anonymous said...

But isn't it a bit weird to have a world in which everyone is the same?

Jan-Willem Bats said...

Technology has brought us closer together in the past, and will continue to bring us closer together in the future.

Wat we will see in the future, is essentially no different than what we have seen in the past: an increase in the quality of our lives.

The only difference is: in the future we'll see more of it, and a lot faster.

And no, I don't think it will be boring. Basically, you're going to be free to determine what you look like. If you feel the need to be different from most other people... no problem. Can-do.