From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Vacanti mouse was a laboratory mouse that had what looked like a human ear grown on its back. The "ear" was actually an ear-shaped cartilage structure grown by seeding cow cartilage cells (there was never any human tissue used) into a biodegradable ear-shaped mold.
The earmouse, as it became known as, was created by Dr. Joseph Vacanti, an anesthesiologist at the University of Massachusetts and Linda Griffith-Cima, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at M.I.T. in 1995. Created to demonstrate a method of fabricating cartilage structures for transplantation into human patients, a resorbable polyester fabric was infiltrated with bovine cartilage cells and implanted under the skin of a hairless mouse. The mouse itself was specifically bred with a genetic mutation which, apart from causing baldness, inhibited the mouse's immune system, preventing a transplant rejection.
Picture causes controversy
The first pictures of the mouse were released following a 1996 BBC TV broadcast, Test Tube Bodies, produced by the British science show, Tomorrow's World. The pictures were circulated worldwide, appearing on many front pages and on TV programmes such as the Jay Leno show. Sometimes colloquially referred to as the "earmouse", it prolked horror among the animal rights and advocacy groups and anti-genetics groups, who protested the use of the mouse for the experiment. Then in the October 11, 1999 New York Times, the anti-genetics group, Turning Point Project, placed a full page ad and used this picture with an inaccurate caption which read, "This is an actual photo of a genetically engineered mouse with a human ear on its back".
The photo of the mouse was passed around the internet, mainly via email, sometimes with little to no text accompanying it leading many people to speculate whether the photo was real.