Anxious Over Glowing Cats, Unafraid Mice

Odd New World
Glowing cats from South Korea

Call me a nervous Nellie, but two stories I read today gave me a bit of the heebie-jeebies.

First, the story about cats that glow in the dark.

This from USAToday:

Scientists in South Korea say they cloned Turkish Angora cats, shown in this government photo (above), with a special gene that makes them glow under ultraviolet light.

Kong Il-Keun of Gyeongsang National University explains why he wanted to make glow-in-the-dark kitties during an interview with Chosun Ilbo: Since cats suffer some 250 genetic diseases that are similar to human diseases, the genetically-modified cats can be used to treat human genetic diseases. Due to the color of the red fluorescent protein itself, the gene manipulation will also be useful to identify the functions of genes at each stage of the differentiation of embryonic or adult stem cells.

Secondly, the story about mice that aren’t afraid of cats.

Fearless mouse approaches cat at Tokyo University

This from AP:

TOKYO — Cat and mouse may never be the same.

Japanese scientists say they’ve used genetic engineering to create mice that show no fear of felines, a development that may shed new light on mammal behavior and the nature of fear itself.

Scientists at Tokyo University say they were able to successfully switch off a mouse’s instinct to cower at the smell or presence of cats — showing that fear is genetically hardwired and not learned through experience, as commonly believed.

“Mice are naturally terrified of cats, and usually panic or flee at the smell of one. But mice with certain nasal cells removed through genetic engineering didn’t display any fear,” said research team leader Ko Kobayakawa.

In his experiment, the genetically altered mice approached cats, even snuggled up to them and played with them. Kobayakawa said he chose domesticated cats that were docile and thus less likely to pounce.

Kobayakawa said his findings, published in the science magazine Nature last month, should help researchers shed further light on how the brain processes information about the outside world.

Kim Dae-soo, a neural genetics professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Seoul, who was not involved in the research, said Kobayakawa’s research could explain further what fear is, and how to control it.

“People have thought mice are fearful of cats because cats prey on them, but that’s not the case,” Kim said.

“If we follow the pathway of related signals in the brain, I think we could discover what kind of networks in the brain are important for controlling fear.”

Too much genetic manipulation and cloning can not be that good. Reports of the horror stories that have already happened only trickle in…and I’m sure more will eventually come. But, when does playing the Creator turn into playing the Destroyer?

Maybe I am overreacting and these manipulations are just great. Maybe I am just a sky-is-falling kinda guy.

I just hope they soon discover how to get rid of my fear of glowing cats, real mighty mice…and scientists out of control!

– Alexander