—We Also Wok Dogs

Using CRISPR, Chinese researchers have produced overly-muscled beagles,  by knocking out myostatin.  They say their goal is to create dogs with mutations that mimic human diseases such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy, for medical research, but I’m not 100% sure that’s what they really have in mind.


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49 Responses to —We Also Wok Dogs

  1. Little spoon says:

    Do they want to create a race of ultra tough soldiers?

    Can we please get over our hang ups to generic engineering bred in from movies and whatnot? Enough with wasting time. The tool is here. Can we at least try to make smarter humans? Or trying to make longer lived animals would be good too. Why this disease and that disease. Aging is the universal genetic disease.

    • One tool is here, but we need a whole tool kit and know how to use them. Also it would help if entire cultures did not think that use of these tools was somehow evil and forbidden. Ah well, we can comfort ourselves with the old saying “you can’t stop progress.”

      Making humans smarter is a very long way off, but ever so slowly we are chipping away at understanding the genetic architecture of intelligence. Speculations on what it is going to take to genetically engineer smarter humans are interesting but sadly vague at this point, I recommend staying tuned to this channel for further updates. Some folks out there are optimistic that all we need to do understand the genetic architecture of human intelligence is to feed enough data comparing geniuses to average people into enough super computers and the answer will spit out. It’s a fascinating and worthwhile endeavor but I think it is just a start. That damned brain of ours is one tough nut to crack.

  2. MawBTS says:

    Someone wok’d your link.

    We’ve already made muscly mice, and muscly Belgian cattle. There’s at least one case of a myostatin mutation observed in humans, in a four year old German child.


    It could be the future of athletics, but what if we need myostatin for something? The article mentions that it could play a role in the quescience of future muscle cells. Maybe it’s a Flowers for Algernon situation – you take a myostatin inhibitor, become Arnold Schwarzenegger for a few years, and then become a 97-pound weakling.

  3. CharlesK says:

    This could happen faster and be be worse than I had expected. There are plenty of countries ruled by a malevolent inner party. All we need is a genetic arms race.

    I am not worried about super muscled soldiers, but rather of scads of soldiers with heightened endurance, a relative lack of fear, slightly above average intelligence, and above average situational awareness.

    And if urban yuppies start making designer babies we’ll have thousands of kids a year tinkered with to be investment bankers and tech company founders. The horror.

    • Abraham Lincoln says:

      Sounds great. I’m really looking forward to all the tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed, blond-haired babes born to wholly unremarkable parents.

  4. ralph says:

    this is a joke about cooking dogs in a restaurant, right? Extra meat = more value for the dollar. Haha.

  5. jb says:

    Can anyone explain why the myostatin gene hasn’t been selected against (in humans and animals both), since according to the article “double-muscling” has no obvious drawbacks? (I would think it would have been especially beneficial during the Bronze Age!) The only thing I can come up with is that you have to eat more to maintain all those muscles. Anything else? What positive effect does myostatin have?

    Also, I wonder what a myostatin-free gorilla would look like…

    • Paul Conroy says:

      I predicted 2 years ago that in 5-10 years Myostatin knockout therapy, via CRISPR/Cas9, would be commercialized into a treatment for middle aged and older men – who wanted to look young and virile.


    • gcochran9 says:

      Belgian Blue cattle have no working myostatin gene, but they have health problems – all have to have C-sections, for example.

      • epoch2013 says:

        I knew a farmer that crossed Belgian Blue’s with MRIJ cattle. She said it was to enhance the price of the bulls she sold. They were then raised for meat. I don’t know if the myostatin gene actually helped as MRIJ already was a multi-purpose race.

        MRIJ: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meuse-Rhine-Issel
        Lovely race. Real asset to the countryside.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Belgian Blues are fixed for a null myostatin allele, so a cross would be a heterozygote. Being a heterozygote for a myostatin null makes a big difference in muscle mass.

          • epoch2013 says:

            I reckoned that too. She made a rule of not letting the offspring of a bull mate with the bull so she probably neatly avoided any benefit from the gene. They were colored nicely though.

      • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

        The vaginal muscles are so strong?

        Do they have to use artificial insemination as well?

      • TWS says:

        Cattle that have to have c sections seem like a money loser to me. Feed, lower marbling, I just don’t see how it can be economical. But lots of agriculture is govt subsidized so who knows.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      Probably about like a Chinese Red Army soldier, circa 2035 or so…

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “Can anyone explain why the myostatin gene hasn’t been selected against”

      Males in small alpha-male bands might have needed as much physical strength as they could get even if it had negative side effects on brains or longevity in some way. As some groups got larger and verbal ability and gang building became relatively more important then maybe the gorilla strength was ditched – so small bands of very strong giants pushed up into the mountains by larger groups of smaller but quicker dudes.

      That might be one explanation – it was selected against in the past and reversed later?

      • gcochran9 says:

        As far as I know myostatin exists in all mammals. So shut up already.

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          “Belgian Blue cattle have no working myostatin gene”

          • gcochran9 says:

            They have a non working copy. They have no working copy because they were bred for it – but since having two copies greatly interferes with reproduction ( C-sections mandatory), a high frequency of null myostatin alleles never occurs in wild populationse. Myostatin null allles are fairly common in some other breeds of beef cattle, but without the move to vet-assisted birth, the gene frequency never gets close to 100%.

          • TWS says:

            It’s gotta be the tight muscles and connective tissue. Perhaps without the gene they are unable to loosen up the muscles and connective tissue prior to birth?

        • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

          You seem to attract them:

    • MawBTS says:

      Can anyone explain why the myostatin gene hasn’t been selected against (in humans and animals both), since according to the article “double-muscling” has no obvious drawbacks?

      Muscle’s expensive, it burns about 8-10 calories per pound, per day. Look up a meal plan for a competitive bodybuilder, it’s retarded how much food they have to eat.

      As with skull size, you’d expect evolution to give us the least amount of muscle possible to get the job done. Also remember that we’re a species of toolmakers. Why rely on muscle mass when you can effortlessly multiply your strength with a lever? Or an atomic bomb?

    • Bla says:

      Muscles are expensive (check bodybuilders’ diets). Until recently that would probably not bode too well for someone’s chances of survival till reproduction age.

  6. pelekesi says:

    Myostatin inhibition increases strength only in untrained subjects. Past a certain size muscle cells lose efficiency as the myonuclei can no longer control the cell effectively. So your bronze age mutant would need to eat a lot more, without being noticeably stronger or more athletic – along with whatever other complications knocking out myostatin would cause.

    • gcochran9 says:

      This comment is incorrect. You know, I need a special glyph for that phrase, too

        • gcochran9 says:

          There are whippets that have one copy of myostatin knocked out. They win races – which is why that mutation has become fairly common.

          Thoroughbred horses have (at a fairly high frequency) a funny version of myostatin. They win races.

          The mother of that kid with no working myostatin was a professional sprinter. “Her brother and three other close male relatives all were unusually strong, with one of them a construction worker able to unload heavy curbstones by hand.” I’d bet money that the father, whoever he was, was also an athlete.

          The kid could hold 7-lb weights with arms extended, at age four.

          I am reminded of the physicians that once explained that anabolic steroids wouldn’t really build muscles. They were wrong. It may well be that having zero working myostatin is trouble – sure looks like it in cattle – but that hardly proves that reduced activity (as in heterozygotes for a null mutation) can’t make you stronger, especially when we already know for sure that it does.

          • Unladen Swallow says:

            Greg, do you know if there have been any follow ups on that German kid, he should be in high school by now, I think he was born in 1999 or 2000. Is he dominating youth soccer or some other sport in Germany for example?

        • MawBTS says:

          The linked article talks about hypertrophy, where the muscle cells grow bigger.

          The myostatin mutation results in something different: hyperplasia, where the muscle cells increase in number.

  7. Greying Wanderer says:

    I can think of a lot of 1984 type scenarios but maybe it’s just meat production.


  8. Greying Wanderer says:


    so that would leave myostatin inhibitors

  9. Bob says:

    Speaking of meat, what do you think of the recent report from the WHO claiming that bacon and processed meat cause cancer? Do you think there’s any validity to that?

    • JayMan says:

      Not one iota. The most basic reason why should be obvious by now.

      • Bob says:

        I don’t understand. Why do you say that?

        • JayMan says:

          Like the overwhelming majority of health studies, this one was correlational. But despite what they teach in Stats 101, in the human sciences, correlation = causation. :\

          • Bob says:

            Ok, I understand that. I guess my question is not whether we can be completely certain, but whether there’s enough evidence to suggest that we should be cautious about eating too much bacon and processed meat. Or can we go hog-wild, so to speak, and eat all the bacon we want? It is very delicious after all.

            I think some of the articles about this report mentioned that in addition to the studies, they have a plausible theory or mechanism about how bacon and processed meat might cause cancer.

          • Bob says:

            Aren’t you being a bit overconfident? I love bacon, but it’s not something you need to eat everyday. Perhaps eating it sparingly or occasionally would minimize any sort of risk there might be.

          • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

            But despite what they teach in Stats 101, in the human sciences, correlation = causation. :\

            Only when it the the right correlation. That is, a good cause correlation.

            When it is an evil correlation it does not equal causation.

          • CharlesK says:

            I am going to corner the market in salted and smoked baconized Beagle meat. Looks like I’ll find a Chinese supplier now. It will sell well in Korea.

  10. IC says:

    Myostatin is kind of cytokines that serve for regulation, signaling during development. Out of balance development will have harm to the individual if you think about consequences of gigantism or hirsutism. Natural selection always favor the most fit individuals for the specific enviroment.

  11. cthulhu says:

    The title of this post is a pun on the title of a classic Heinlein short story. Well played!

  12. TWS says:

    Did you see the wiki pic of the Belgium Blue Bull? The damn thing has to shit all over himself worse than any normal cattle. It’s not like they’re pristine or something but that poor son of a bitch has his thighs sticking a foot past his ass. The c sections look ghastly and the poor things are just not made right.

    They look like something Dr Moreau gave up on. I can see benefits for people. Since we get way too many calories anyway might as well burn them building muscle and if you asked half the guys they would trade ten years of life for a Charles Atlas build. They probably have other problems but who knows.

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