Mice Reporting For Duty

Jeroen Pillaerds
October 26th 2012

The weapon industry is one of the most innovative industries in the world for years. However recently, the industry has taken a quite remarkable shift towards genetic manipulation of animals. Researchers at the Hunter College of the City University of New York have successfully “developed” genetic manipulated mice, with extra smell receptors as announced on the annual meeting of the society for neuro science by Charlotte D'Hulst.

The manipulated mice have 500 times more nose cells than regular mice and these extra receptors will make them highly sensitive to the smell of explosives.  Scientists hope to use these mice in the future to discover land mines and other explosives, they expect them to be operational in about five years.

Although rats where already used to discover explosives in war territories, it is hoped that genetic manipulation will save the nine months of extensive training, which costs an average of €6.000,- per rat, it takes to make the rats find the explosives. To compare, former research points out that the territory a rat can cover in an hour, would take two men in full equipment a whole day! It is however not the case that the mice will become operational on their own. As one might expect they still need human interference, to guide the mice through the war territory.

Of course the question that rises with a lot of people is how far this industry will develop? Are we shifting to warfare full of genetic manipulated “super” animals? And is it ethical to use animals in wars created by men? On the other hand, to fall back on the mice, it could save a lot of human lives since people get injured by accidentally stepping on land mines every day. So maybe it is worthwhile to pay attention to the opportunities of this branch.

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