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Rhino protection by gene therapy

Slow, but sure
  [vote for,

Some members of your species seem to consider that the consumption of rhino horn is beneficial.

There is no evidence that this is correct.

It would be beneficial for rhinos if these misguided individuals were persuaded that their assumptions are incorrect.

The obvious answer is, by gene therapy, to introduce the relevant DNA from the Fugu or Puffer fish so that rhino accumulate high levels of tetrodotoxin in their horns.

Once a significant proportion of the wild population is modified, the law of diminishing returns will come into effect; poachers will still run all the risks of their trade, only to find that their product is unsaleable (by administering a portion of it to a test animal).

When 100% modification is achieved, the trade will naturally die out, as end-users are permanently eliminated.

8th of 7, Aug 11 2016

mahogany_20137 would something similar work for rhinos? [xenzag, Aug 11 2016]


       I'll bet consumption of those individuals who consume rhino horn would provide the very same benefits only at fifty times the rate. We should start that rumor.
RayfordSteele, Aug 11 2016

       There are problems, [8th], there are problems.   

       First, tetrodotoxin is produced by bacteria (not Fugu, which simply accumulates the toxin); but that's OK. Second, transplanting any complex biochemical pathway between species is not trivial - it's not a single gene, but an ensemble of genes that all have to work nicely with eachother, and in the cell's milieu. Third, if you did get the pathway to express in rhinos, the immediate result would be dead rhinos. Fourth, rhino horns are essentially dead anyway, and any tetrodotoxin incorporated during growth would degrade fairly quickly.   

       However, I do like the idea of poisoning rhino horn. There are probably a bunch of stable, slow- diffusing toxins that could be used. Simply tranquilize your rhino, drill a bunch of 1/32" holes in the horn, fill each with your chosen poison, and seal the holes with wax. Some organic mercury compounds are gloriously toxic and bind strongly to keratin, making the horn lethal without endangering the animal itself.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 11 2016

       Max - see linked idea. Could Rhino food be similarly contaminated without causing any actual harm?
xenzag, Aug 11 2016

       Idea fully approved and awarded my two croissant setting + +
xenzag, Aug 11 2016

       We've already tried it. Ethyl methane sulfonate as an alkylating agent - a potent mutagen. It created a virus so lethal the subject was dead before he left the table.
normzone, Aug 11 2016

       Knock out the rhino, remove the horn, letting it steep for a while in the nearest reactor, then sell to rhino horn traders.
not_morrison_rm, Aug 11 2016

       Neutron activation won't make it toxic. As [MB] points out, it's mostly keratin. You'll break some hydrogen bonds, but that's about it. Hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen can all capture neutrons, but without dramatic consequences - and that's mostly what proteins are.   

       // the immediate result would be dead rhinos. //   

       Fugu have a gene mutation that protects them from the toxin. Just bung that in too.   

       Organomercury complexes have potential. As long as it could be held in the horn, TCDD is another candidate.   

       The shortcoming is that they're slow-acting. The ideal toxin would cause a moderately rapid and extremely unpleasant demise at doses in the microgramme range, and be untreatable.
8th of 7, Aug 11 2016


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