Science is always muddying the waters as to what is and isn’t natural. Some people believe that nature shouldn’t be toyed with by humans. They think scientists are playing God and are harmfully affecting the natural order that was put on this earth for a reason. Others believe that every human creation is inherently natural, meaning that any scientific breakthrough is cosmically natural. Even those who don’t consider themselves religious have a stance on science intervening with nature. Some think it’s furthering human understanding of the world, and some think the consequences of the meddling are too drastic.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, everyone can admit that science has created some remarkable results when messing with nature, some of them even terrifying. Science is only evolving and growing as civilization continues, and each day, we are closer to an unthinkable scientific revelation. Russian scientists are closing in on trying to clone a woolly mammoth, allowing present humans to see what one would look like if we lived thousands of years ago.
When science meddles with nature, the results are striking. We’re at the point now where science can alter the genes of animals to make nature bend to its will. It isn’t “natural” by the traditional sense of the word, but we may be on the verge of redefining the term itself.
15. Ear Mouse
Hopefully, this mouse couldn’t hear the gasps of disgust that resulted in its creation, but having an ear growing out of its back suggests that it may have some sort of ability. This thing is what Audioman (name is a work in progress) was bit by before gaining super-hearing strength and an appetite for cheese.
The ear mouse, also called the Vacanti Mouse, was created by Charles Vacanti and his team at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1997. While the deformity in the mouse’s back is shaped like an ear, it isn’t actually a human ear. The ear is made of cartilage cells that were put into an ear-shaped mold and implanted under the mouse’s skin. The cartilage grew into the shape of the ear and the rest is history.
14. Zombie Dogs
The first time a dead dog was reanimated was in 1940’s Russia. Scientists released a chilling video in which a severed dog’s head can be seen moving its ears in response to sound and moving its mouth as if it were alive. The scientists used a concoction of artificial blood, allowing the dog’s head to stay alive for hours after it was removed from the body.
It wasn’t until 2005 that such an experiment was conducted again, this time with American researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. These scientists weren’t the showmen that the first batch was. They killed the dogs by draining their blood and replacing it with a cold, oxygen and glucose-filled saline solution.
The group waited for the dogs to be officially dead and reanimated them by replacing the solution with blood. Shockingly, most of the dogs survived the experiment with little permanent damage. If this method could be used on humans, it would be able to save the lives of countless people who die from severe injuries.
13. Human-Pig Hybrid
Earlier in 2017, scientists announced the breakthrough landmark of combining human DNA of that with an animal. This is the first time that such an attempt has been successful, and it has massive implications now that we know that it’s possible to grow human DNA in an animal host. This successful attempt was made by injecting human DNA into the embryo of a pig.
This is considered a massive step in the ability to manufacture human organs. There is always a shortage of organs for those who need donors, especially since people are often waiting for another person to die. If the above process works on a reliable basis, then there will be an influx of usable organs just waiting to be put into humans.
This is only one step forward for the human-animal hybrids, as any organs created by this man-pig would be rejected by a human host. Still, this could be the beginning of more human-animal hybrids that help improve humanity’s lifespan.
12. Naked Chickens
Factory farms are always looking for a way to increase efficiency, so it should come as no surprise that someone has figured out how to genetically alter chickens to lose their feathers.
The first featherless chicken was bred in Israel in 2001. It was thought to be one of the methods of the future, but hasn’t caught on as much as some thought at the time. There are some obvious advantages to breeding chickens without feathers, but there are some disadvantages as well. For one, keeping these chickens in cold environments can be problematic. Some have also claimed that this makes the quality of life for the chickens worse, as feathers serve an evolutionary purpose.
Some farmers have seen the benefits of breeding these featherless chickens, and while they’re terrifying to behold, they do offer some efficiency perks. The lack of feathers saves money in cooling costs, as well as the resources used to pluck the chickens.
11. Buff Cows
The Belgian Blue Cow goes by many names, but it may be most aptly described as a buff cow. These hulking giants are a result of years of interbreeding. They originated in the 1800’s in Belgium. The local Belgian breeds were crossbred with the Shorthorn cattle breed from the United Kingdom. The result was a variation of what you see above.
What makes the cows of this breed so massive is a mutation in the myostatin gene. The myostatin gene is responsible for inhibiting muscle development. So when it’s mutated in this fashion, there are virtually no limits on the muscle growth one can experience. The Belgian Blue converts almost all of its feed into pure muscle. Of course, they are fed more protein than your average cow in order to pack on as much muscle as possible.
As far as the uses of a genetically massive cow, they were originally used as dairy cows. Later, the lean meat received from these muscular cows provide an ample amount of food, although usually for a higher price than your average steak.
10. Dead-End Mosquitoes
Have you ever wondered why science doesn’t just say “enough” and eradicate all mosquitoes? They are responsible for the spread of so many diseases; wouldn’t it be easier to get rid of them all?
Well, there’s a chance we’re heading in that direction, as scientists have been working on perfecting the dead-end mosquito. This mosquito is effectively sterile, meaning that if they were released into the public, none of their offspring would survive, drastically reducing the mosquito population.
It sounds like a great idea in theory, but there is some public backlash against the proposal to introduce thousands of genetically-modified insects to the population. The fish and birds that eat mosquitoes may be left without a food source. In addition, there are the unforeseen consequences that will only be measured after the mosquitoes are released.
9. Transparent Frogs
Almost everyone has dissected a frog in their high school science class. There’s a reason for this—their internal organs closely mirror that of humans. For that reason, it’s often beneficial to study the effects of diseases and other internal reactions in the bodies of frogs in a laboratory setting.
Because this is the case, Japanese scientists took the internal study of frogs one step further by selectively breeding frogs until their skin was virtually transparent. This revelation was made by Professor Masakyui Sumida of Hiroshima University in 2007.
The fact that these frogs are so transparent assists scientists in studying diseases like cancer in their bodies. Scientists are able to witness the effects of drugs on the diseases while the frog is still alive instead of relying on dissection after the fact.
8. Sterile Pink Bollworm
Getting rid of pests is always a difficult task. Insecticide often results in resistant strains of the pests, which was exactly what was happening in Arizona. Pink Bollworms were decimating the local cotton plants, and farmers were left with few options to combat the problem. That’s where science stepped in.
Scientists created a sterile version of the moth a Pink Bollworm turns into. They released these moths to the public in 2010. The strategy of releasing these moths was to influence the breeding of these insects. A moth that developed a resistance to pesticides would likely run into a sterile moth, meaning their resistance wouldn’t be passed to the next generation. In addition, this strategy drastically reduced the overall population of these Pink Bollworms in the area.
GloFish are exactly what the sound like—fish that glow under the light. GloFish is actually a patented brand of fish and the only genetically engineered animal available for sale in the United States. That’s right. If you want to get yourself a GloFish, all you need to do is go online and order one.
The GloFish was originally created at the University of Singapore, where researchers added a gene naturally found in jellyfish to a zebrafish embryo. The zebrafish grew into adulthood with a bright green fluorescence. Eventually, more jellyfish genes and some genes from coral were introduced to the zebrafish to create a variety of colors.
The GloFish became popular in the United States in the early 2000’s. The FDA stated that it found no need to regulate the fish because they were for domestic use and not for consumption. The original intent for these fish was to identify pollutants in the water, which has been all but abandoned in favor of commercial use.
6. Spider Goats
A true spider goat would be quite the sight to behold. Unfortunately, it’s not what you’re thinking. This refers to the discovery by researchers from the University of Wyoming. These scientists found a way to inject the gene for creating spider silk into the body of goats, allowing them to produce silk in their milk.
Spider silk is an extremely useful resource. It’s stronger than steel and can be used for more applications. Acquiring a sizable amount of spider silk means that we could create more efficient bulletproof vests, casts, and even artificial ligaments and tendons.
Gaining a bunch of spider silk has always been tough. Spiders are territorial, meaning that if scientists try to set up a spider farm, the spiders will usually turn on each other. Creating spider silk in goat milk is one way scientists plan on getting an abundance of the substance in the future.
5. Massive Salmon
The raising and consumption of salmon is one of the more controversial subjects in genetically-modified food. Farm-raised salmon are plagued with problems, but scientists have been able to genetically engineer Atlantic salmon to grow twice as fast as those that are farm-raised.
The main concern with this type of genetic engineering–other than the questionable health implications–is the worry that these captive salmon would somehow escape into the wild. If they did, they would likely decimate the food population and leave other fish to starve. Genetically larger and faster-growing fish may help drive profits and feed more people. But if those salmons escape, no one really knows how devastating their effect on the environment would be.
4. Environmentally-Friendly Pigs
The meat industry is one of the largest polluters on the planet. Many environmental agencies claim that the pollution associated with meat production far outweighs that of the automotive industry, stating that the focus of activism should be on meat production rather than car emissions.
Scientists in Canada have begun to find a solution to this problem through more genetic engineering. They have created pigs that produce 65% less phosphorus in their urine and feces. This is most beneficial to bodies of water, which suffer the most from these harmful chemicals.
Scientists did this by fiddling around with the pigs’ genes, allowing it to break down the phosphorus in the food before passing it on. If this is implemented on a greater scale, it would mean a more environmentally-friendly product, although there are some who are skeptical. It’s always smart to be weary when people are messing with the genes of your food, so it’s unlikely we’ll see these pigs on the table any time soon.
Dolly was the first mammal ever to survive the process of being cloned, and it shook the scientific world when she was born in 1996. I won’t burden you with all of the details of the process that was used–I don’t understand most of it anyway–but the result was a healthy cloned sheep and a breakthrough in the field.
Dolly was cloned by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland after 277 unsuccessful attempts. She lived for only 6.5 years before being euthanized due to her ailments. Cloning animals isn’t yet an efficient means of reproducing these animals, but Dolly’s life breathed new life into the area of cloning.
Since then, countless animals have been cloned by various scientific outlets. Some have even started the undertaking of reviving extinct species through cloning. Russian scientists are even looking to clone a woolly mammoth in the near future.
The biggest breakthrough of Dolly’s existence, though, is the work in stem cell research. Stem cells are now seen as extremely beneficial tools that may be able to extend the lives of the human species.
2. Rainbow Carrots
If you’re a carrot purist, you may not be aware that there are actually a wide variety of colored carrots. Geneticists have been experimenting with changing the color of carrots for a while now, and the practice is spreading to the point where local farmers can even be seen peddling their purple carrots.
Rainbow carrots are more popular in other places in the world, but they’re slowly trickling to the United States. These carrots are genetically modified to have more nutrients and a slightly different flavor than traditional orange carrots. More nutrients are always a good thing, but like all genetically modified food, people are skeptical of the possible downside to meddling. People are inherently–and rightly–suspicious of modified foods. If they are nothing but positive, it’s a step we’ll need to overcome.
1. Golden Seahorses
Using the genes of jellyfish to get other sea creatures to emit light or change color is pretty hot in the science streets at the moment. Glittering seahorses or golden seahorses were the first genetically-altered animal ever to come out of Vietnam, and they did so by using a similar method to that of those who created the GloFish.
Scientists in this field believe that the implications of these experiments is far greater than simple aesthetics. Sure, it would be cool to have a glittering gold seahorse in your fish tank, but researchers believe that there are countless applications for this type of method. They believe it will revolutionize farming, although GMOs are usually frowned upon by the public, as well as used in humans to replace harmful or unwanted genes.
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