Sunday, December 21, 2008

To a Mouse, on turning up her genetic code with a DNA sequencer

(with apologies to Robert Burns)

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous mousie,
Astir within the Christmas housie!
Thy DNA, each A, T, G and C
Has now been tapped
For comparison wi' me,
Thy chromosomes mapped.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has meddled wi' thy isolation
Now's confirm'd the old opinion
Which causes some to startle:
Thou art man's near-like companion
An' fellow-mortal,

There's scarce an aspect of medicine
Or biology for which thy laboratory kin
Hath not proved a blessin' - -
Genetics, pharmacology,
Cancer research, memory an'
Learning, immunology,

To name a few -- thy gift, wee beastie,
For which we truly thank thee.
Now, thy code of life all twisty
Is laid bare, 2.5 billion
Base pairs, even more alike to me
Underneath the skin.

Of genes, we 'ave near equal number,
Thirty thousand, less or more,
And almost all of thine are sim'lar
To my own. But please:
I'm taller than thee, an' smarter,
Tho' we both like cheese.

Seventy million years ago we shared
An ancestor, then our paths diverged.
Thou sought the lowly way, brown
And inconspicuous. But look!
Man's cruel utility has found
Thee out, within thy hidden nook.

O, Mousie, thou art not alone
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid plans o' mice and men
Gang aft agley,
An' leave us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy.

Still, thou art blest, compared wi' me --
Scamperin' 'neath the Christmas tree.
The present only toucheth thee,
While I must backward cast my eye
An' remember all the presents
I forgot to buy.

Discuss this essay and more over on the Science Musings Blog.