5. Cancer-fighting Eggs
Now here’s an application of genetic engineering that could make a huge, positive difference….but it’s still a bit odd. In 2007, Scientists from the Roslin Institute produced a breed of hen that laid eggs with cancer-fighting properties. The chickens had human genes added to their DNA and the result was that the whites of their eggs contained the medicinal proteins, which could then be separated back out again. The idea was welcomed by cancer charities, but six years on, it doesn’t seem to have caught on. Perhaps the idea of using another creature to give birth to medicine was just a bit too strange for the world at large? Either way, it seems like a worthwhile use of genetics.
4. Banana Vaccine
There’s more food/medicine fusion in this next entry, which is a banana laced with a Hepatitis B vaccine. Developed in 2007, which seems to be something of a vintage year for weird genetic experiments, it was intended for use in developing countries where facilities for sterilizing needles might not exist, making traditional vaccines unsafe. Instead, people would be offered a genetically modified banana, which had been grown from a tree injected with the Hepatitis B virus. That sounds much safer, doesn’t it?
The explanation goes something like this – when the sapling is injected with the virus, the genes from the virus become part of the sapling’s DNA, and grow bananas which contain the virus proteins, but not the infectious part. When someone eats the banana, their body produces antibodies against the virus, as it would with a normal vaccine. Again, the idea never seemed to catch on, and recent reports suggest that the plan had been abandoned, as it was too difficult to scale up.
3. Dolly the Sheep
Of course, no list of genetic freakishness would be complete without Dolly, the lovable sheep clone that hit the headlines in 1996. Dolly was not the first cloned animal, but she was the first mammal to have been cloned from an adult cell. A cursory knowledge of sci-fi tells you that the future will be full of cloned humans, and many saw this as the first step towards a nightmarish future where people were grown in laboratories.
That may still happen, but it seems that scientists are still ironing out the kinks in the procedure. As she was cloned from a 6-year-old, Dolly’s cells may have been prematurely aged, contributing to her death at the age of 6 (sheep normally live till 11 or 12). Not quite ready to unleash on humans yet then…!
2. Glow in the Dark Cats
Be warned – things are getting seriously strange from here on. If you thought that the fluorescent fish were a bit freaky, how about applying the same science to our furry feline friends? In what must have been some kind of drunken dare, scientists used luminescent jellyfish DNA to produce cats that glowed in the dark. I suppose it’s handy for people who often trip over their black cats on dark nights, but it seems somewhat cruel. Wouldn’t a glow-in-the-dark collar be cheaper and just as effective?
Apparently, there is a scientific application, as the luminescence helps trace the path of imported genes and so can be used to fight the cat version of AIDS. But it really does sound like something a bunch of scientists came up with when drunk, doesn’t it?
1. Cow People
And for our top entry – the Man Cow. It was inevitable that someone would start messing around with human DNA at some point, and maybe it was also predictable that it would be Chinese scientists that would do it. Calls to outlaw the freaky cow-people that were shaking their udders at all and sundry have been slightly exaggerated – all the scientists actually did was to splice human DNA into cows in order to make their milk more like human breastmilk. That’s acceptable, right?
Maybe it’s a noble cause, but the merging of humans and cows on a genetic level is nothing but disturbing. It will almost certainly lead to the aforementioned cow-people forming an army and trampling all the non-cow-people in their way. Or something like that. It certainly deserves its place as our number 1 weirdest experiment with nature.