November 20, 2007

Of Mighty Mice and Men

picture of a mouse alongside a cordless mouseIn my article, Doping: To dope or not to dope, I mentioned how athletes exploit the pharmaceutical and other abilities of drugs to manipulate things in their favor. Trained athletes learn to use fatty acids as energy source more effectively than untrained men, over time. Burning fatty acids as fuel has the advantage of not producing lactate, metabolites of carbohydrates that is the cause of muscle cramps. At the same time, lactate, being acidic in nature, inhibit vital enzymes necessary for tissue reactions. Trained (and trendy) athletes who are experienced, overfeed themselves with carbohydrates days prior to a sporting event. This produces ample glycogen stores in them which come handy during the event as energy source.

But it seems that the mouse is going to beat them at their own turf! I am not talking about your brand new electronic optical (or bluetooth) mouse, I refer to our own natural rodent. It is well known that scientists have a penchant for using mice as experimental guinea pigs for their research. In this process they have produced "brainbow" in mice, a multicolored novel approach to explore neural networking; given birth to fearless breed of mice-no longer afraid of cats, by ablating their olfactory (smell) neurones and doing away with their smell associated identification of their enemies etc.

Now scientists have inserted a gene into mice that has made them far more stronger, hardier and has more stamina. This research was led by Richard Hanson, professor of biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University at Cleveland, Ohio. He first made a cDNA (complimentary DNA) of the enzyme PEPCK-C (phosphoenol pyruvate carboxykinase). Creating a cDNA may be compared to making a rubber stamp (or the negative of a photograph) which when inserted into the DNA sequence will keep on 'stamping', creating more proteins (enzymes) in the process. PEPCK-C cDNA was then linked to the skeletal actin gene promoter (a promoter may be conceived as a DNA sequence that instructs a gene to transcribe). Thus PEPCK-C was produced along with actin and the "mighty mouse" emerged. The PEPCK-C gene is expressed in the liver, kidney and some other tissues. This enzyme plays vital role in both carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, the transgenic mice that were produced was very efficient in utilizing fatty acids as energy source.

Cause for concern? Well, I can't envisage a mouse brigade in the near future.

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