Sunday, October 22, 2006

Genetically-engineered Marathon Mice Run 92% Farther

This is an old story (2004), but I thought I would pass it on in case you missed it (like me). The Salk Institute in San Diego, CA, successfully modified the genetic code of mice to make them super-endurance athletes. By increasing the activity of the protein PPARDelta, scientists created mice that could run 92% farther, had double the amount of slow-twitch muscle growth, and only gained 1/3 the amount of fat of other mice (even when fed a high fat diet). Who needs EPO or "actual exercise" when you can just tweak your genes?

The research has fascinating implications, both good and bad. It's amazing that science can bring us closer to our full genetic potential, but I suspect it's primary use will be to give couch potatoes easy access to rock-hard abs. (sigh!) And I'm sure the Tour de France will never be the same (or, will continue to be the same but with a new twist). You can listen to a podcast of an NPR discussion about it here.

(Maybe our quads can all reach our genetic potential, like Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman;
photo courtesy of
Bill Comstock)

In a twist worthy of the "Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of NIMH", a couple dozen of the mice escaped into the wild a few weeks after the announcement. So let me get this straight - dial in your full endurance potential and you will be naturally pulled outdoors? Sounds right to me! But we're going to have to pre-engineer some cats too just to make it fair (then dogs, then dog-catchers...will it ever end?).

- SD


  1. OMG, those legs are shocking!!! But I can't stop staring...

  2. Yikes...looks pretty ugly to me:)

  3. That's a good question, Peter. Here in the States, I have never seen any evidence of doping. There seems to be heavy use of ibuprofen, caffiene, and aspirin, but I don't think that qualifies. If you read the fine print on the race disclaimers for the bigger ultras, you will see their right to disqualify "based on use of intrevenous medications" and the such; I would think this is due to some past problems.

    It's clear there are doping issues among the road marathon/ultras of the world. South Africa recently busted 8 of their top 9 at Comrades. The top 5 marathons began heavy anti-doping tests last year.

    I have run into a handful of elite amateur triathletes that experiment with various "enhancers", such as EPO and growth hormone. Then again, it's not illegal to dope in the amateur ranks. I'm just not sure what the incentive is. ;-)


  4. Super mice! Let the mutations begin!

  5. Crap! Now I have to worry about uber-mice applying for the WS100 and Hardrock lotteries, and jamming the entry list.

    Happy trails,
    Bad Ben

    Trailrunning website:


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