Frankenstein’s Cat

If you had a spare 20 grand, would you clone your cat??

Frankenstein’s Cat by Emily Anthes is an incredible page turning journey through the weird, terrifying and (dare I say) amazing science of genetically modified animals.

It has long been known that animals form an integral part of science research. Lab rats, Dolly the Sheep, even goldfish. Anthes travels the world, talking to scientists, researchers, farm owners and animal activists to chart the advances and ethical implications animals have given to the scientific world.

She explores the role of rats in cancer research, tuna in understanding the ocean, and cats in unlocking the secrets of cloning. There’s also fascinating insight in how GM animals are marketed to the public as pets – glowing neon fish, anyone? The science involved has moved beyond Charles Darwin’s evolution theories, or even selective breeding (Pugs were no accident!). For the first time scientists can change the genetic makeup of a creature in months, not generations. In a way, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for which the book is aptly titled, science has moved into the realm of jaw dropping achievements that had once been restricted to science fiction.

Some of the science involved is amazing – giving a dolphin a new lease of life with a prosthetic tail – and some is a little terrifying – hard-wiring beetles so they can be flown about via remote control (no joke, they can do this!). Frankenstein’s Cat has a balanced argument between the benefits research and genetic modification has achieved, alongside a compelling ethical debate about the animal welfare and (ahem) humanity of such research.

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I found this to be a fantastic read. Her writing is very engaging and not stuffed full of impossible science jargon, but well explained theory and the author’s passion for animals shines through.  The chapters I found the most fascinating were definitely Double Trouble, the history and future of cloning and Pin the Tail on the Dolphin, the amazing journey in prosthetic limbs for animals.

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