Once upon a time, the idea of “enhanced beasts”—animals with the intelligence of human beings—was something that could only be found in the fantasy realm, and at one point in our lives, we may have encountered some of them in our favorite books. I mean, who can forget Reepicheep? In C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Reepicheep stands out; he has the boldness of John Mcclane and the manners of Prince Harry. How do we know this? Well for one thing, yeah, he talks. But most importantly, C.S Lewis makes it clear that Reepicheep is genetically superior, and therefore more intelligent, than his mouse peers.
Where am I going with this?
Well, having animal sub-species, “civilized” ones in fact, in the context of our own reality has already begun–this has been made possible through DNA manipulation, and not just any kind of DNA manipulation either.
More specifically, scientists have recently polished up an experiment where they have implanted human brain cells into the brains of mice and have succeeded in making them smarter than their non-hybrid mouse peers (imagine being able to say to your friend, “hey, my mouse is smarter than yours. literally. here are the lab results).
How were they able to do this?
Well, scientists have long tied brain size to intelligence. In the span of almost 7 million years, our brain has tripled in size and this is viewed as the cornerstone in terms of our evolution towards becoming a higher species.
And hence in a recent experiment, researchers at Duke University have isolated the precise DNA sequence responsible for brain growth in humans- HARE5 to be particular, and implanted them into the brains of a group of mice.
The mice with the injected HARE5 experienced a rapid 12 percent increase in their own brain size, but most importantly, (or “freakily”) their brain activity mirrored human brain activity instead of their ordinary mice peers. (more details of the experiment in this article here.
Don’t expect to be having conversations with your dog/cat/hamster/illegal ferret, or whatever beloved pet you may have at your home anytime soon though. But if this practice becomes popular and more evolved, the line between men and animals may become a little less obvious.
And there’s even more looming ahead to this thing that many refer to as, “Genetic Armageddon.” Because the practice of creating strange animal-human hybrids at the cellular level can go both ways; that is, scientists are seeking to locate specific DNA sequence found only in the animal kingdom and implanting them into humans in order to have an enhanced physiological benefit.
Indeed, many things that have seemed elusive to us (regenerative powers, reverse-aging, etc) may be found by understanding the DNA sequence of animals. (You want fountain of youth? Jellyfish never dies people!) But more on that in another article.
Still, it does raise questions and concerns and it is easy to see the moral and ethical dilemma that is inevitably tied to this (as is the norm for most scientific breakthroughs) but the truth is, it’s happening, and science isn’t usually one to stop when it makes a given headway into a new territory.
Woah, woah, and woah right? I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached my quota of mindfucks for the day. I think it will suffice if we just take a moment and just simultaneously “Aww” at this cute photo of a mouse reading a book. 🙂