SF & Fantasy

Four Freaky Frankenbeasts Forged by Science


Four Freaky Frankenbeasts Forged by Science

Alan Dean Foster’s suspenseful science fiction novel The Human Blend (available in paperback next week) takes place in a far future of genetically modified people. While super-powered (and super-freaky) transgenic humans may yet be a long way off, today’s scientists are well on their way to making mutant plants and animals a reality.

Here are four freaky Frankenbeasts forged by science:

Glow in the Dark Cats: What’s better than a cat? A cat that doubles as a book light. Mayo Clinic Scientist hoping to find a cure for AIDS are studying Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. One of the possible treatments they’re trying involves transferring new disease-resistant genes into mama cats that can then  be passed on to their offspring. This disease-resistant gene is bundled with a special glowing gene harvested from a species of jellyfish, and kittens who inherit the gene glow green while those who don’t glow red.

Sudden-Death Mosquitoes: British scientists hit upon an ingenious idea for controlling the spread of Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness that wreaks havoc upon the developing world. By tinkering with mosquito genes, the scientists created a self-destructing male mosquito. Their hope is that the new short-lived mosquito will mate with wild female mosquitoes, producing offspring that inherit the lab-spawned mosquito’s ultra short-lived lifespan.

Teenage Mutant Fish Tomato: In the early nineties researchers at DNA Plant Technologies genetically engineered a frost-resistant tomato. How? They spliced in genes from an arctic flounder. The so-called “fish tomato” became a symbol of many people’s fears of transgenic foods. Not surprisingly, it never made it to market.

The Amazing Spider Goat: Spider silk is an amazingly durable product with a number of potential applications in biomedical and industrial research. Unfortunately, it’s hard to harvest. (“Have you ever milked a spider, Greg?”) Scientists at the University of Wisconsin came up with what could be considered a disturbing solution: they incorporated the spider’s silk-spinning gene into goats. Now they can harvest the spider silk protein from the goat’s milk. Sounds like a baaaaah-d idea to me.

BONUS: “Blinky” here wasn’t created on purpose, and the jury is still out as to whether its mutation is naturally occurring or a result of exposure to radiation, so I have included it here as a bonus entry:

The Simpsons Did It! Three-Eyed Fish: Argentine fishermen angling in a reservoir near a nuclear power plant hooked what could be a cousin of “Blinky”, the three-eyed fish from The Simpsons. The tri-eyed monster was given to local scientists for them to determine if the mutation was caused by radiation from the power plant. D’oh!


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