Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why is a mouse that spins?

Of course we knew Robert Naviaux back when he was paying his dues, playing small neighbourhood bars and researching dark chocolate as a cure for muscle dysfunction, heart disease and diabetes.*

Unexpected outcomes of ground-breaking
It is a truth universally acknowledged in our field of research that the royal road** to fame and fortune and laudatory headlines from goldfish-attention-span journalists is to send out a press release about the health benefits of chocolate. It must be a tradition, or an old charter or something. The ground-breaking research at Riddled Laboratories with cocoa and godmeat gene transfection brought the reporters running, except they never actually reached us on account of the broken ground and the consequent exploding tanks and pteranodons. NOT THAT WE'RE BITTER.

But now Naviaux and his Mitochondrial and Metabolic Disease Centre have sold out and gone mainstream with a Curing Autism Mouse Study, and they have forgotten their old friends and no longer return the phone calls from Riddled.

But worse, they have stolen a Riddled discovery for making mice clumsy and socially-awkward! The trick is to reset their purinergic intra-cellular signalling channels by stressing them in utero with a poly(IC)-RNA simulated viral infection administered to the dams. As any fule kno.

The resulting adult mice fail the revolving pole-dance test, and in the Social Preference test they are more interested in a cage containing Lego blocks than in another cage containing a conspecific. Naviaux's press release calls this "a mouse model for autism" because a grant from an autism foundation was paying for the research.
At Riddled we are humane and ethical scientists and we stopped our experiments because the mice exhibit a wide range of other symptoms: general muscular weakness, neural deficits, metabolic dysfunction (although these can be warded off by treating the test animals with Suramin before they develop). Also the novelty and entertainment value of the mice wore off at the Mad Science monthly get-togethers -- a fickle audience, easily distracted by cheap gimcrack trumpery with TAQ polymerase and remote-controlled cyborg lobsters. Mainly, though, we were concerned that their super-intelligent fascination with the Lego blocks lay in the potential for assembling them into a ramp and escaping from the mouse enclosure and then world domination.



Suramin has a number of side-effects including ballistic organ syndrome though fewer than half the recipients "will require lifelong corticosteroid replacement". But with the tabloids heralding it as a cure for autism you can bet the equine beast of burden of your choice that it's already on sale from the autism quacks.
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* Research funded by the Hershey Corporation.

** BONUS Royal Road. You must be wearing a spiky gold spacesuit to use this thoroughfare.

11 comments:

rhwombat said...

Um. I've used suramin to treat trypanosomiasis. Bugger of a drug. I'll take the chocolate deficient autistic mice, thanks (...though if you have any ratonastick I could be persuaded)

M. Bouffant said...

I've observed ballistic organ syndrome in a dog hit by a car on a freeway. Those viscera could have gone supersonic!

Smut Clyde said...

Sad thing is that what Naviaux &co are doing looks (to this uninitiated reader) like really good research -- just that it is in no way connected with the things that the terms of their funding require them to pretend that it is connected with.

Anonymous said...

Algernon: autistic or ahead of his time?

El Manquécito said...

Algernon: autistic or ahead of his time?

Sirius Lunacy said...

They are not looking for world domination. They are here to save the world!

OBS said...

I hope they do further testing on Deadmau5.

M. Bouffant said...

Did you have something to do w/ this action?

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

cThe ground-breaking research at Riddled Laboratories with cocoa and godmeat gene transfection brought the reporters running, except they never actually reached us on account of the broken ground and the consequent exploding tanks and pteranodons.

I think some of them had a run-in with some out-of control Valkyries in the Black Mountains.

Substance McGravitas said...

"a mouse model for autism"

Now when Mickey sold his cow for "magic beans" THAT was an autism-spectrum moment.

Smut Clyde said...

Did you have something to do w/ this action?

Not us!

It was tempting to go off on a side-track about Maddy Hornig's "Rain mouse" study from 2004. Hornig and her colleagues had received a research grant to show that vaccines caused autism. So they developed a "mouse model of autism" in which mice were injected with mercury-based antibiotic, in large enough doses to damage nerves in their paws. The resulting mice were relatively inactive (because they were in agony whenever they tried to walk), which for the purposes of the study was an "autism-like symptom".

Couldn't write anything funny, alas.