5 Ways Lab Rats Are Being Turned In To Super Soldiers

    August 20, 2012 at 6:00 am

    supersoldier opening pivOur greatest scientific minds have slaved away in labs for years attempting to find ways to cure what ails us. In their valiant crusade to better the human race through science, they have relied upon the help of lowly, fuzzy creatures known as lab mice, which are no different than regular mice – that is until scientists begin fiddling with their DNA or their brains. For so long we have feared the rise of the machines, or the zombies, or the add-your-preferred-apocalypse-here. Yet we pay little attention to the fact that in our desperate voyage to reach perfection we have been equipping lab mice with all of the weapons needed to destroy us all.

    Researchers out of Duke University have created an experimental drug that sooths anxiety and eradicates fear. It all starts with an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which might as well be called “psycho juice.” FAAH breaks down endocannabinoids in the brain. As the name suggests, an endocannabinoid is a chemical that basically acts the same way marijuana does. A frequent side effect of getting baked is paranoia. Usually this is because of ordering food delivery then forgetting all about it when there is a loud knock at the door. When the FAAH enzyme breaks down the endocannabinoids, the opposite of paranoia happens: tolerance for fear shoots up. So what scientists have essentially created is a set of mice that have no fear and are probably very high.

    We were going to Photoshop a No Fear shirt on Willie, but it felt so wrong

    This discovery is intended to treat post traumatic stress disorder, but it can do so much more. Mice were conditioned to fear electric shocks to their feet, then turned in to a bunch of John McClains (from Diehard, kids) and just shook off their foot injuries while under the influence of the drug.

    But, hey, they’re only mice! So what if they don’t fear anything! It’s not like they can do anything special, like, say, run one-foot per-second for a solid three miles?

    Oh, wait. Some researchers from Case Western Reserve University did exactly that. As you can see in the video below…

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    …the normal mouse struggles to maintain a steady run for more than a few seconds, while the so called “mighty mouse” treads that mill with the same determination that Speedy Gonzales uses to chase down whatever Speedy Gonzales likes (meth, probably).

    speedy gonzales

    Even more terrifying is the following quote from one of the researchers about these genetically enhanced terrors:

    “They are metabolically similar to Lance Armstrong biking up the Pyrenees.”

    In other words, these are mice that can survive boat loads of cancer in their bodies and still have enough energy to beat everyone in a bike race across France multiple times, and on top of that still have enough energy to bang Sheryl Crow at the end of the day (probably twice because he only has half the goods).

    The explanation of how scientists singled out the gene that can make this happen is packed with science jargon. In fact, it would probably make you flash back to your high school chemistry class and fake an illness so you can spend the rest of the time it would take to read this article failing to lose your collective virginities by hitting on the nurese. We researched it, like, hard, and came up with the following explanation:

    Step 1: They found a thing that does a thing.

    Step 2: They made that thing work harder than usual via an energetic and inspirational 80s-inspired movie montage.

    Step 3: They created little monsters with this newly enhanced thing.

    Step 4: We all die at the fast hands and rapidly nibbling little teeth of the monsters created by the enhanced thing. (This step has not yet come to pass, but it’s certainly scheduled).

    So now they don’t fear us and they can outlast us in a foot race, but at least we can communicate. It’s safe to say that communicating has been a big advantage for us. Luckily, mice lack the capacity for speech. Or rather, they lacked the capacity for speech. Like a bunch of antisocial jerks, some scientists from the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology straight up gave some mice the genes we use to speak and it rewired the communication areas of their brains so they functioned more like ours. Those were our genes, dammit! Well, sort of.

    The gene that gives us the ability to speak, called FOXP2, is present in pretty much every animal, including the mammals we evolved from, chimps. At some point in our parallel evolution, chimps and soon-to-be humans split off, and we eventually developed a more robust FOXP2 gene. Again this was done through another 1980s-inspired movie montage in which early humans lifted a lot of logs with their mouths as “Eye of the Tiger” blared and those unable to lift logs died off for some reason.

    gun tank
    We’re not so different after all.

    Mice have FOXP2 as well, but their version of the gene, along with every other non-verbal communicating animal on earth that isn’t a human, is non-functional. It’s the genetic equivalent of an appendix or wisdom teeth. So the aforementioned asshole scientists from Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology gave some lab mice small samples of our version of FOXP2 and, lo and behold, the secretly-smart rodents “showed changes in brain circuits that have previously been linked to human speech.” The mice aren’t flapping their lips, talking about how they’ve never actually liked cheese, and that we’re idiots for assuming that. However, the baby mice began to sub-vocally communicate (kind of like vibrating their vocal chords) when they were taken away from their nests. Yes, you read that right: We’re not only giving rats superpowers, but we’re snatching the young super-mice away from their mothers. One day, they’re going to get really pissed at these scientists, we’re just saying.

    Conclusion: They may not be able to hold lengthy conversations just yet, but a sub-vocally communicating mouse is far scarier than one that squeaks non-specifically and then drops a pellet.

    What’s worse, scientists from the University of Ottawa played God and made mice smarter.

    In an effort to further our understanding of developmental disorders such as autism, researcher David Picketts and his team took some mice and messed around with their Snf2l gene, a gene that aids in the organizing of a cell’s genetic material, and also determines which other genes are active or inactive. In other words, Snf2l is your cable company and it has the final say in whether or not you’re watching TV tonight by turning off your access to Keeping Up With The Kardashians at its discretion.

    off switch
    If only it were this easy to kill access to the Kardashians

    Mice specifically bred without this gene showed a 35% increase in brain size, an increased number of cells in all areas of their brains, and increased cell division activity. They are, in science terms, really eggbrained. Now we have fearless speedster mice that are intelligent and have a very basic form of communication. Not that anyone’s keeping score (except the tormented lab mice).

    At this rate we might as well give mice some sort of anti-aging protein that extends their lifespans by 16%, and then implant false memories in to their brains so they can have some deeply rooted yet not completely understood psychological desire for revenge like a bunch of maze-running Jason Bournes (from Bourne identity, old-timers)

    As you could have guessed, we’ve done both of those awful, awful things.

    Israeli scientists found something remarkable about a set of proteins called sirtuins. There are seven types of sirtuins, and it is theorized they play some role in our aging process and in the fighting of disease. The sixth type of sirtuin, SIRT6, is what the researches focused on. They didn’t focus on our SIRT6, of course; they focused on the SIRT6 of mice. Turns out, if you load up a mouse with a bunch of SIRT6, the animal’s life expectancy rockets, making them live up to 16% longer than normal. Not only that, but the SIRT6 packed mice were able to eat the fattiest, nastiest, most unhealthy foods in huge quantities (for a mouse) and never show a single sign of heart disease or a fatty liver.

    The researches don’t know why the sirtuin proteins hold the key to making us impervious to disease and possibly allowing us to live forever, but mice are getting it first and we’re screwed

    mouse knife
    Just do this and get it over with, already

    Perhaps the creepiest experiment of all involved implanting false memories in to mice. Mark Mayford of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California, created a drug that could forcefully make a brain think it was experiencing one event when it was actually experiencing a different event.

    Mayford starting by placing a series of mice in to individual boxes that had a specific color and smell. Color and smell are strong memory makers, so the brains of the mice took a sort-of “mental snapshot” of their surroundings. The mice were then transported to a second box with a completely different color and smell. Then, the mice were given a shot of a wonder drug that forced their brains to fire off the neurons that helped create their memory of the previous box. Finally, while still in the second box, the mice were given an electric shock to their feet. Under normal circumstances – circumstances in which being electrocuted is a “normal” thing — the mice would be terrified of the second box. These mice weren’t. The drug they were injected with had brought up their memory of the first box, the box where there was a different color and smell, and wasn’t a mouse-sized electric chair. Even with all of these physical factors telling them otherwise, the mice thought they were still within the safe, loving confines of the first box.

    Now all it takes is for some mad scientist to combine all these wonderful medical advancements and discoveries to create a legion of hyper-intelligent, verbal, super-fast, immortal, and brain washed mice. Or maybe all it could take is one mouse getting really smart to set off a Rise of the Planet of the Apes chain of events. Sure, all of these advancements are intended for our use, but who actually has them right now? The mice. Therefore, they have the upper hand.

    Luckily for conspiracy theorists, everywhere, NASA has a satellite imaging system that can detect mouse populations from space With some minor tinkering we can probably get that thing to rain fiery hell upon them.

    laser satellite
    If you need a picture of a satellite firing a deadly laser beam, run a generic search for the words “James Bond”

    Keep in mind that rodents came pretty close to accomplishing their goal of ultimate human annihilation once before with bubonic plague (a simple virus). Just imagine what they’d do with mutant-brains, hyper-speed, and (probably) a burning desire to rebuild society so it is completely free of science.



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