On one side stands your typical everyday house mouse, cowering before his fearsome opponent: a mouse almost twice the size and boasting an incredible physique, nicknamed, appropriately, “Knock Out”.
So, is this brutal mismatch down to years of obsessive bodybuilding on the running wheel? Far from it. The only difference between these two individuals is that one mouse has had a specific gene type known as Myostatin (MSTN) removed or “knocked out”. This genetic alteration has allowed its muscles to grow to a colossal size. The ‘Mighty Mouse’ strain was first created by geneticists in 1997.
The implications of the discovery are vast. Such a technique might eventually allow the treatment of certain degenerative diseases such as muscular dystrophy and even allow humans to maintain a high level of muscle strength into old age. Athletes could, in theory, build muscle mass without exercising!
However, in an age where advertising, magazines, comic book movie adaptations and popular culture bombard us with images of bodies seeking perfection, it is argued that an important distinction needs to be made between using genetic technologies to treat those who are suffering, and using them on healthy people seeking to become superior to the average person.
Imagine if you were granted the power to use gene knock-out technology in humans to not only cure illness but also enhance an individuals abilities:
How would you decide who would be entitled to such treatment?
If you could genetically improve one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
Should people who can afford it, be able to pay to become ‘super-human’?
To see our monstrous Mighty Mouse and discover other gene modification techniques used on animals, visit the Who Am I gallery on the first floor in the Welcome wing.