Turning on a single gene
July 18, 2002 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Turning on a single gene makes mouse brains grow huge, and fold in the skull similarly to human brains. Fancy discussing Derida over tea with a rodent? more inside...
posted by daver (38 comments total)

 
An interesting excerpt: "The thinking power of the cerebral cortex is determined by surface area. It is basically a sheet," said Walsh, a neurologist and geneticist". This is the big that's folded in humans, and also in the modified mice. The mice were sacrificed (harvested? What's the term they use these days in the lab?) after birth, so nobody knows for sure if these mice were smarter than standard mice or not. But, the implications are a bit daunting -- presumably you could make smart beasts dumber, and dumb ones smarter by regulating this gene in embryos (if it infact turns out that this makes them smarter). What do you do with a mouse that's 10x smarter than most?
posted by daver at 1:50 PM on July 18, 2002


Yes sir, one dozen roses for Algernon's grave, comin' up. That'll be $39.50.
posted by interrobang at 1:52 PM on July 18, 2002


I, for one, would like to welcome our Evil Mouse Overlords.
posted by ColdChef at 1:53 PM on July 18, 2002


Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?
posted by yhbc at 1:53 PM on July 18, 2002


If a 10x smarter mouse is about as smart as an average dog, then you've got a creature who can strapped up with a fiber optic camera and used in underground search and rescue, military missions across enemy lines, etc.

A 10X smarter horse would not need any reigns to know where to go.

A 10X smarter monkey could work handle chemical and nuclear waste?
posted by MattD at 1:54 PM on July 18, 2002


"We didn't expect to see the folds. . . We didn't expect it to be so big," Walsh said.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that...
posted by ColdChef at 1:55 PM on July 18, 2002


just keep them away from those whisky glasses...next thing you know, they're flying around, ruling the world...not good.
posted by dorian at 1:55 PM on July 18, 2002


I also like the article linked below: Weird Fossilized Flying Reptile 'A Vision of Hell'
posted by ColdChef at 1:57 PM on July 18, 2002


If my next door neighbour were 10x smarter, he probably wouldn't be mislocated trailer trash...
posted by five fresh fish at 2:00 PM on July 18, 2002


ColdChef: first comment hilarious, second comment... folds?! See a doctor immediately!
posted by nicwolff at 2:03 PM on July 18, 2002


So, assuming that foldy brains automatically lead to an increase in intelligence and that the amount of foldiness created using this techniques is similar to the human brain, how intelligent would such a mouse be? As intelligent as 1/2 a baby? Less?
posted by MUD at 2:05 PM on July 18, 2002


Well, I think so Brain, but we're already naked.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:07 PM on July 18, 2002


It is not yet clear whether the mice are smarter -- they were all killed soon after birth...

Oh, gee. This is one of those sentences I'd just as rather not have read.
posted by nicwolff at 2:08 PM on July 18, 2002


MUD: 1/2 a baby is pretty much not intelligent at all, due to the bleeding and deadness and all.
posted by nicwolff at 2:09 PM on July 18, 2002


Damn you, Interrobang! I wanted to be the one to bring that up.

MUD: From what I remember, though this is an ancient memory, greater foldiness(there is a technical term for this I can't remember) of the brain matter was found to roughly indicate greater general intelligence. Can't help you with the comparison to half a baby, but it would be interesting to find out.
posted by Su at 2:10 PM on July 18, 2002


MUD: 1/2 a baby is pretty much not intelligent at all, due to the bleeding and deadness and all.

And THAT is a sentence I'd just as rather not have read.
posted by ColdChef at 2:11 PM on July 18, 2002


I think so Brain, but me and Pippi Longstocking... What would the children be like?... Ahh I don't care, whatever they looked like, they'd be loved!
posted by KnitWit at 2:12 PM on July 18, 2002


And when I had finished discussing Derida I could then move on and discuss Derrida?
posted by Postroad at 2:17 PM on July 18, 2002


Okay looking at it from the other end, how big would you have to engineer the mouse to really allow you discuss Derrida over tea? Assuming that the mouse could speak. And assuming that you both knew something about Derrida to discuss.

Hmm, I seem to be assuming a lot here. And we all know what happens when I assume - I make an ass out of u and me. So now, instead of discussing Derrida I've just turned myself and my mousey companion into asses - genetic engineering run amok.
posted by MUD at 2:23 PM on July 18, 2002


Su: convolution?
posted by tolkhan at 2:25 PM on July 18, 2002


Bingo, tolkhan.
posted by MUD at 2:31 PM on July 18, 2002


*attempts bluff* Yeah, right PostRoad, and next you're going to tell me it's not spelled Foocault. Go ahead, pull the other one!
posted by daver at 2:53 PM on July 18, 2002


I think the term for foldiness may be "convolution".

And why did they kill all the mice? I mean, that sounds like a waste of good research money, not to mention animal life.

Once they carved up the first mouse or two, didn't it occur to them that they could save some time and not have to re-run all their procedures etc to get more mice if they just reared and did at least a few experiments with the remaining, living mice?
posted by beth at 3:04 PM on July 18, 2002


This is, I'm sure, just another step toward finding out the Ultimate Question (the Answer, of course, being 42).
posted by me3dia at 3:04 PM on July 18, 2002


It wouldn't have to bee too smart to discuss Derrida. I faked it through a decade of grad school.
posted by tippiedog at 3:12 PM on July 18, 2002


...a 10x smarter mouse...
no - an X10 equipped smart mouse. imagine the possible upskirts!
posted by quonsar at 3:22 PM on July 18, 2002


Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh?
posted by th3ph17 at 3:41 PM on July 18, 2002


This is obviously a sign that the end is near.

Don't panic. *dispenses towels*
posted by precocious at 3:47 PM on July 18, 2002


Hee! nicwolff: "... bleeding and deadness ..."
posted by grrarrgh00 at 4:02 PM on July 18, 2002


So can I have the same gene "turned on" and get some more folds? I'd do anything to be smarter than that wise-ass Jenkins in accounting...
posted by jalexei at 4:05 PM on July 18, 2002


Douglas Adams was right after all... Now all the mice have to do is to find 'the question' before the Vogon Constructor Fleet cruises in.
posted by GriffX at 4:07 PM on July 18, 2002


the Vogons had to cancel...they had irregularities with their financial arrangement due to strange Vogon accounting practices and have been shut down. Apparently they were pocketing the replacement planets on some demolition jobs, and still claim that the fossil records are wrong rather than the book keeping and auditing by Arcturus Anderson IV.

Pity though, since that famous fjord designer was going to help design the replacement earth. Ah well.
posted by th3ph17 at 4:26 PM on July 18, 2002


th3ph17: HA!
posted by interrobang at 4:34 PM on July 18, 2002


They didn't alter the genetics of the mice. The mice just allowed more of their brain to show through into this dimension to lead us to make certian assumptions.... ( and back we are to MUD's argument)
posted by KnitWit at 4:44 PM on July 18, 2002


And why did they kill all the mice? I mean, that sounds like a waste of good research money, not to mention animal life.

Once they carved up the first mouse or two, didn't it occur to them that they could save some time and not have to re-run all their procedures etc to get more mice if they just reared and did at least a few experiments with the remaining, living mice?


an n of one or two (or ten) often doesn't mean anything. you have to prove that the increase in convolutions didn't just happen at random. besides, the way science works nowadays, they had to publish something quickly or maybe get scooped. rarely do people put the whole story together in one paper anymore. gotta get those publications out to get tenure. . .

besides, making the mice and getting to the point where they had pups to sacrifice probably took them at least a year. they couldn't take their first generation of transgenic mice apart, since they don't breed very well after a full necropsy.
posted by marmot at 4:51 PM on July 18, 2002


MattD: At some point these smarter mice (or horses, or dogs, or monkeys) will cease to be "dumb animals", and won't want to handle our nuclear waste or cross enemy lines with fiber optic cameras.

My sister is already of the opinion that our cats can understand English perfectly; they just don't let on because they don't want to have to get jobs and pay taxes.
posted by Soliloquy at 5:15 PM on July 18, 2002


At some point these smarter mice ... won't want to handle our nuclear waste or cross enemy lines

kind of like the apes in the original Planet of the Apes movies didn't want to serve us anymore.
posted by tolkhan at 4:47 AM on July 19, 2002


I believe KnitWit.
posted by beth at 6:37 AM on July 19, 2002


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