London, Nov 2(UNI) A supermouse that can run up to six km without getting tired, eat more food without putting on weight, live longer and breed three times better than its counterparts has sparked off a debate whether genetic engineering could be applied to create superhumans.
The genetically-modified organism can run up to six km at a speed of 20 metres per minute for five hours without getting tired, comparable to the performance of the best athletes.
The physical performance of the supermouse can be compared to supremely fit athletes like the cyclist Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005.
Scientists cheering the creation of the mouse with extra ordinary physical abilities believe that the invention may lead to the creation of super humans.
The findings could be used to develop new drugs used to enhance muscle performance that could be used and misused by athletes in future, Richard Hanson of Case Western Reserve University at Cleveland in Ohio said.
''Though, humans have exactly the same gene but this mouse model was not an appropriate for human gene therapy. It was currently not possible to introduce genes into the skeletal muscles of humans and it would not be ethical to even try,'' The independent quoted him as saying.
The genetic alteration to a gene involved in glucose metabolism appears to stimulate the efficient use of body fat for energy production. At the same time, the mice do not suffer from a build up of lactic acid, which causes muscle cramps, a feature also seen in the best endurance athletes.
Professor Hanson said, ''They utilise mainly fatty acids for energy and produce very little lactic acid. They are not eating or drinking and yet they can run for four or five hours.'' ''On the downside, they eat twice as much as control mice, but they are half the weight, and are very aggressive,''he said.
The physical and behavioural changes in the modified mice were unexpected. Usually, scientists have to carry out blood tests to see if there has been any effect of altering the genes, but these mice were noticeably different at a very early age.
They popped around the cage like popcorn. It was found that they were about 10 times as active as ordinary mice.
Further research on the mice could shed light on the link between high-calorie diets and cancer, and low-calorie diets and longevity.