Previously: Scientists are casually ruining mice’s brains.
“Researchers have found a way to make see-through mice, but you won’t find these critters scampering in your kitchen.
The transparent rodents aren’t alive and they’re for research only, to help scientists study fine details of anatomy. Before they are treated with chemicals, the animals are euthanized and their skin removed. Researchers made their inner organs transparent, but not their bones.”
“What’s wrong, Carol?”
“I said, what’s wrong? You’ve been distracted all morning.”
Carol dropped the spoon against her coffee cup. It clattered, and she jumped. “It’s nothing.” She tried to laugh. “I’m just tired, I guess.”
Janice scooted closer to Carol on the bench. “Carol. Come on. It’s me here. What’s really going on?” She pulled out a lighter from her pocket and casually singed the eyelids off an American white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus), but its tiny screams didn’t even elicit a chuckle from Carol.
Carol rubbed her eyes. “I just sometimes — sometimes I feel like we’ve run out of ways to fuck with mice.”
Janice dropped the mouse, bleeding and twitching in agony, to the floor. “Carol?”
“Look, we both got into neuroscience for the same reason,” Carol said, “to –”
“To see what kind of shit we could do to mice,” Janice finished for her.
“Yeah,” Carol said. “To see what kind of shit we could do to mice. Sometimes I worry we found them all. And the ones we already know about just don’t thrill me anymore.”
“Don’t thrill you any more?” Janice asked. “What about when we tear off their feet and race them across flypaper?”
Carol smiled wanly.
“What about when we take out all of their blood and replace it with sand? What about when we–”
“I know,” Carol said. “I know. It should still thrill me. But it doesn’t.” She stood up. “Maybe it’s time I got out of the game. Let someone younger and hungrier about fucking with mice step in.”
“Carol,” Janice began, “I wasn’t going to say anything about this until I was sure we had perfected the process. I was actually going to wait until your birthday. But I think you need to see what I’ve been working on.”
“Okay,” Carol said, but without much hope in her voice.
“Come with me.” Janice led Carol over to a small walk-in closet and pushed back the curtains. “Take a look.”
Carol gasped. Spread out on the table were row upon row of transparent, gelatinous mice bodies. “It’s horrible,” she breathed in disgust. “Janice, you’re incredible. How did you do it?”
“Go ahead,” Janice said. “Touch one.”
Carol tentatively poked at the nearest twisted sack of gel-flesh and shuddered in delight as the material sprang back into place.
“It’s fairly simple,” Janice explained. “I pumped a series of chemicals through the blood vessels and spinal cords of regular mice…”
“Painful, corrosive chemicals?” Carol asked eagerly.
Janice chuckled. “Of course. And I created a series of mesh frameworks to keep the gel-tissue from collapsing and allowing the mice to escape into the merciful arms of death. Took about a week.”
“And they’re in unbelievable pain and confusion?” Carol said, grinning.
“Unimaginable,” Janice said. “I wouldn’t have made them any other way.”
“Do you think–” Carol began, then stopped.
“What is it?”
“Do you think we could put them under the X-ray machine until they develop brain tumors?”
Janice smiled. That’s my Carol. “Of course we can.”
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.