If you thought genetically modified crops were controversial, genetically modified animals are a whole different playing field of bizarre. Science has made a ton of advancements in changing animal DNA, especially with CRISPR, a genome editing tool that allows scientists to edit genomes with unprecedented precision. CRISPR has prevented HIV infections in human cells and aided in the creation of genetically modified pigs that may one day serve as organ donors for human transplant patients. It's groundbreaking, but is it always ethical?
Customizing animals is hardly a new concept. That adorable toy poodle and those fancy teacup pigs were all created to be as cute as nature would allow through selective breeding. That's one thing, but splicing the extra-cute DNA of your pup is a whole different level. Is genetically modifying a slaughterhouse cow to feel no pain a public service or a scary animal experiment? What about splicing together a sustainable Salmon that humans can slice up on a bagel with cream cheese?
These insane genetically modified animal experiments are the future, and many of the advancement seem promising. But is the future really as rosy as you would hope? Vote up the extreme genetic experiments that are the most extreme and make you go "what?!"
Goats are truly adorable, but spiders are everyone's worst nightmare. So what happens when you combine them? Scientists have created a literal goat Spider-goat, proving that Peter Parker's fate really could happen if it was at all ethical to mess around with a human's DNA.
In 2012, University of Wyoming scientists genetically engineered goats to produce a spider silk protein in their milk. This wasn't some kind of sick experiment to defeat the likes of Mysterio and the Green Goblin. It was to help foster silk production through created a super-strong milk, from which a particular protein could then be extracted and spun into silk. Spider silk is one of the strongest materials in the world, and is highly useful in the medical and scientific fields (not just in the superficial fashion space, though who doesn't appreciate a nice silk shirt?). But spiders just don't make enough of the material on their own. Genetically combining them with goats, who typically milk at least once a day, would increase production.
If your skin is crawling because now you're thinking of a spider farm, just think of cute baby goats instead.
Mice That Make Baby Formula
Not every mother can breastfeed, and while synthetic formula definitely does its job, it's lacking in certain proteins that can boost a baby's immune system. Lactoferrin is naturally occurring in human breast milk and helps babies gain resistance to bacteria and fungi. In an effort to improve baby formula, Russian scientists have been splicing mice with human genes in order to spawn rodents that produce milk with lactoferrin. Of course, you'd need a whole lot of mice to create enough milk for all the human babies in the world who need it, but this is just the beginning. Scientists hope this research will expand to animals like goats and cows that could produce milk on a much larger scale.
Dairy Cows For The Lactose Intolerant
It's estimated that 65% of the human population is lactose intolerant. In places like Asia, up to 90% of people have issues digesting dairy. It's pretty much a tragedy that a large swath of the population can't enjoy a half pint of lactose-laden Ben & Jerry's and an entire Dominos pizza. To fix this grave injustice, scientists have genetically modified a cow that creates milk without β-lactoglobulin, the protein that makes so many people sick. As a bonus, this milk loaded with extra casein, which means it's supposedly more nutritious than your average cow juice.
Bacon is one of life's finer pleasures, but it's pretty darn awful for you. Chinese scientists have been genetically modifying pigs in order to reduce the fat content of their meat (i.e. they're making low fat piglets).
According to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists have managed to create 12 healthy pigs with 24% less body fat than their non-GMO brethren by modifying a gene that allows pigs to better regulate body temperature through burning fat.
This revolutionary advancement isn't just a win for humans looking to consume low-fat BLTs. These pigs are less expensive to raise (it's estimated that farmers will save millions in feeding costs), and they suffer less in cold weather (a win for frozen piggies everywhere).