Friday, August 14, 2015

Shortcut to Smarts

Folks in England have discovered that altering a single gene to suppress production of a single enzyme can make mice noticeably smarter and bolder.
Researchers from Britain and Canada found that altering a single gene to block the phosphodiesterase-4B (PDE4B) enzyme, which is found in many organs including the brain, made mice cleverer and at the same time less fearful.
 If this gets out of the lab, it could spell trouble for the rest of us. Just think: That mousetrap you put out is now located next to your bed for you to find first thing in the morning. The sticky mouse paper has been relocated to your toilet seat and your cat is now wearing bells.

Of course there is a down side. The treated mice may be quick learners, but they lose a bit of the characteristics that enable a prey animal to be successful such as the inclination to live in dark out-of-the-way places. A mouse that walks up to the cats dish, pulls the cats whiskers and walks off with a piece of cat kibble may live to produce may more such wiseass mice. Then again it may not.

In humans this could lead to some otherwise blustery windbag standing in front of a TV camera and demanding to be elected president because he/she obviously deserves it.

Oh wait...

There are probably other genes, as yet undetected that serve to moderate the production of the PDE4B enzyme rather than simply turn it on or off. Folklore abounds with tales of clever, daring people who wound up either rich captains of industry, tinpot dictators, or dancing on the end of a rope.

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