Liam has the kind of physical attributes that bodybuilders and other athletes dream about:

  • 40 percent more muscle mass than normal,
  • jaw-dropping strength,
  • breathtaking quickness,
  • a speedy metabolism and
  • almost no body fat.

Liam can run like the wind, has the agility of a cat…

Myostatin-related muscle hypertrophyHe’s 19 months old.

Liam Hoekstra was hanging upside down by his feet when he performed an inverted sit-up, his shirt falling away to expose rippled abdominal muscles. Two days after he was born, Liam could stand up and support his weight if someone held his hands to provide balance. He has given his mother a black eye and once punched a hole in the plaster wall during a tantrum.

Liam’s condition is a medical rarity, allowing twice the normal amount of muscle induced by a genetic mutation that reduces his production of myostatin. [story]

He’s not some kind of freak and mustn’t be viewed or treated differently than other children. His mother and his doctor agree, “He’s a normal kid. It’s going to be fun to watch him grow.”

Myostatin-related muscle hypertrophyMyostatin-related muscle hypertrophy was first documented in beef cattle and mice in the late 1990s. If the myostatin protein is knocked out, muscles grow and rejuvenate much more quickly.

From a 2004 post, “Belgian Blues are unlike any cows you’ve ever seen. They have a genetic mutation that means they do not have effective myostatin, a substance that curbs muscle growth. A result is that Belgian Blues are all bulging muscles without a spot of fat…”

A related post, Schwarzendogger, reports of an international DNA sampling program to study muscle-bound Whippet puppies in order to purge this often painful condition from the breed.

Gene therapy and marker-assisted selection [mas] goes to the heart of an issue that will turn our species upside down in the coming decades.

Nicholas Kristof explores the consequences of genetic alteration and whether it is really possible to “design” better humans in this editorial in the New York Times. [no sub required]

Future Pundit opines, “Future genetic engineers looking to enhance human function will search through animal genetic variations and choose ones that provide desired enhancements… …to serve as a grab bag of pre-tested genetic variations that can allow humans to endow themselves with a large variety of special abilities that humans now lack.”