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BIG LIST: Freaks of Nature

Friday 13 January 2012, 01:42PM


We all know that scientists are really just the world’s biggest pranksters. I mean, they created a giant-headed supersoldier ant just because they could (see left). So, instead of imagining what other kinds of crazy mutants they’ve knocked up on their lunch break, we’ve made a list.

 

Got milk? Have you ever looked at a cow and thought, ‘Man, I wish that gorgeous beast had a nice ol’ set of human breasts I could drink from’? Scientists in China apparently have, creating genetically modified cattle that produce “human” milk in a bid to make cows’ milk more nutritious. Professor Ning Li, the scientist who led the research and director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University, insisted that the GM milk would be as safe to drink as milk from ordinary dairy cows, but why should we trust someone who thinks it cool to drink milk from a cow?

 

 Rodent’s revenge: If human breastmilk’s not your thing, how about a nice refreshing glass of rodent nectar? It’s all about lactoferrin, apparently, a substance in breast milk that boosts infant immune systems. Human milk contains only four to five grammes of the stuff per litre, but mice milk that includes up to 160 grammes. Scientists must anesthetise the mice and then attach tiny pumps to their itty-bitty mouse teats to harvest negligible quantities of milk (yes, just like in The Simpsons). This process is admittedly hilarious but extremely inefficient and difficult to produce on an industrial scale.

 

 Venomous veggies: Remember when your mum always told you to finish your greens? Well she may as well have told you to finish eating your scorpion poison glands, because that’s what future children may have to look forward to. Scientists have recently taken the gene that programmes poison in scorpion tails and looked for ways to combine it with cabbage. Why would they want to create venomous cabbage? To limit pesticide use while still preventing caterpillars from damaging cabbage crops. These genetically modified cabbages would produce scorpion poison that kills caterpillars when they bite leaves — but the toxin is modified so it isn’t harmful to humans. So who wants to try it first?

 

 Buzz off: Hands up if you hate mosquitoes. Now everyone put your hands down. It should please you then to know that the same British biotech company involved with the GE bollworm has created mosquitoes that are specifically programmed for sudden, early death, kind of like the computers of the insect world. The idea is to release quick-dying males to mate with wild females, passing on lethal genes that kill the young before they can reproduce. The short-lived bugs could help control the spread of dengue fever and other diseases. Despite having some critics, the only real down side of this terminator gene is losing out on the satisfaction of a mosquito killing revenge rampage.

 

 Fluro felines: In 2007, South Korean scientists took the GloFish and stepped it up notch, altering a cat’s DNA to make it glow in the dark, and then took that DNA and cloned other cats from it — creating a set of fluffy, fluorescent felines. Here’s how they did it: The researchers took skin cells from Turkish Angora female cats and used a virus to insert genetic instructions for making red fluorescent protein. Then they put the gene-altered nuclei into the eggs for cloning, and the cloned embryos were implanted back into the donor cats – making the cats the surrogate mothers for their own clones.

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