Superman born in Germany?
June 24, 2004 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Superman born in Germany? It appears that "the boy's mutant DNA segment was found to block production of a protein called myostatin that limits muscle growth."

"Now we can say that myostatin acts the same way in humans as in animals," said the boy's physician, Dr. Markus Schuelke, a professor in the child neurology department at Charite/University Medical Center Berlin. "We can apply that knowledge to humans, including trial therapies for muscular dystrophy."

Or other things...
posted by andreaazure (17 comments total)
[hums the catchy theme song to the X-Men cartoons]
posted by Asparagirl at 10:05 AM on June 24, 2004

We should be thankful that this happened now and not, say, 1920.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:07 AM on June 24, 2004

Anyone else picturing Bam Bam?
posted by bbrown at 10:31 AM on June 24, 2004

I wonder if this could result in people too strong for their tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues. Even ordinary athletes get pulled hamstrings and such if they don't warm up carefully before exerting themselves.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:33 AM on June 24, 2004

Damn German ubermensch...
posted by ChrisTN at 10:35 AM on June 24, 2004

posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:48 AM on June 24, 2004

Heart failure. That's the big health risk.
Now see, we need to figure out how to trigger the same growth in Secretariat's heart along with this, and we shall be one step closer to creating Morlocks. Woo wooooo.
posted by linux at 10:53 AM on June 24, 2004

I wonder if this could result in people too strong for their tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues.

This is, in fact, a huge problem for big steroid abusers: their muscles grow faster than the connective tissue is ready for, allowing the muscles, but not the connective tissue, to handle very heavy weights very quickly. Load up your tendons before they're ready and you're in for a world of hurt (and a lifetime of rehab).

I can imagine that ordinary folk with this condition would experience the same problems, especially in children who aren't aware of ordinary physical limitations.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:29 AM on June 24, 2004

For those who want to dive into more depth, the current edition of Scientific American has a great article on this- not specifically related to this child, but to the general process. Raises a lot of interesting questions. For example, at least in theory, this kid could grow up into a champion weightlifter- there is evidence that an unrelated mutation in a family in Sweden gave them blood which carried unusually high amounts of oxygen- turning several of them into champions in endurance sports. Is this an unfair advantage? And when gene therapy is used to induce this chemical change to help MS patients, how long before it shows up in athletes, basically undetectable?
posted by louie at 11:45 AM on June 24, 2004

Yeah, louie, that article can be found here.

That's one buff bull on pg. 2
posted by titanshiny at 11:55 AM on June 24, 2004

Wow, fascinating article, titanshiny (and louie), thanks.

And that rower's back isn't so jacked. My back pretty much looks like that. Except, you know, without all the muscles and stuff.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:06 PM on June 24, 2004

Ah yeah. "The curious case of the muscley baby."

It stands to reason that there are mental analogues. How much, do you suppose, does Metafilter weigh ?
posted by troutfishing at 12:34 PM on June 24, 2004

Well, we can all agree that it is unlikely this boy will ever lack lunch money.
posted by y2karl at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2004

Is this an unfair advantage?

Manute Bol was 7'7". Was that unfair to the rest of the NBA? Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe has huge paddle-like hands and feet. Pianist Franz Liszt's could play chords impossible for those with "normal" sized hands.

Are those physical advatages unfair? As long as they are naturally occuring, I say no.
posted by Monk at 1:45 PM on June 24, 2004

Easily the best headline.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:23 PM on June 24, 2004

Well, we can all agree that it is unlikely this boy will ever lack lunch money.

A telling little quip.
posted by David Dark at 3:39 PM on June 24, 2004

Reminds me of Achilles' Choice by Niven and Barnes.

If you could choose to be the best athlete in the world, knowing that it would shorten your life by twenty or thirty years, would you choose it? Some people would. As a believer in personal sovereignty, I say it is their right to make that choice for themselves.

As for athletic competition, the current mindless zero-tolerance policy (but I repeat myself) for anything that might even look like a drug, however unrelated to performance in the sport in question it might be, is doomed. The solution is to separate out sports for fun and sports for money. Backyard soccer etc is a good thing, it needs no more to encourage it than the presence of playgrounds and so on at schools, and a less social-status-affecting school phys. ed. culture.

Sports for money though, the kind of stuff that us proles sit and watch on TV, the kind of thing that some people get paid twenty times a nurse's salary to do ... to hell with it. Let the pros shoot up on booster juice, be genetically retrofitted with double-speed nerve fibers and triple-strength hearts and lungs. Let them get cybernetic feet and adamantium-laced skeletons. Let them go as far as they want to. It can only improve the spectacle of the sport, which is what it's all about.

It'll change their lives, of course, and not all for the better. Pro sports people won't be the same as us folks any more, a lot of them wouldn't be able to even pass as normal folks (this applies to pro basketballers and pro wrestlers today, to some extent). How cops deal with an angry man who weighs 900lb, is mostly bulletproof, and can run at thirty miles an hour, well, that's an "interesting" social question. But it will come up eventually, probably in our lifetimes. When genetic modification goes mainstream--and consider how long it took car ownership or computer ownership to go mainstream after the technology was developed--then ordinary people, obviously, will have it.

So, there's another reason to open pro sports up to superman-making. It lets us get used to it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:55 PM on June 24, 2004

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