You're a nefarious supervillian and you want to transform this city into a hive of mind-controlled minions. But you also need the element of surprise. Two new scientific studies offer a possible solution. You can implant behavior-changing proteins in sperm, creating a sexually-transmitted form of mind control.
Let's not bother with why you would want to do this. Maybe you're conquering Orgyopolis, or you only want minions who are willing to have sex with your sperm donors.
The point is, scientists are working on research that could one day make your evil plan possible.
A study published yesterday in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases describes the way male mosquito sperm changes the behavior of female mosquitoes. Over 100 proteins are transferred to females after they mate, and the researchers discovered that those proteins govern everything from mating behavior (the females mate less after the proteins become active) to feeding (they eat less blood). Eventually, the researchers say, they hope to modify these sperm proteins to change the female mosquito's behavior even further, perhaps preventing her from biting anyone and thus curtailing the spread of Dengue Fever, a deadly disease spread by mosquitoes.
But you're a supervillain, so who cares whether we die of Dengue Fever? This study has other implications. It means that proteins in sperm can potentially cause psychological changes in people who - ahem - receive that sperm. Still, there's a big difference between flies and humans. Is there any chance that you will be able to pull off the giant sperm mind control plot using your underground biotech manufacturing plant?
PLoS Biology offers some hope. Another article published yesterday, about how to engineer more robust and active enzymes, demonstrates that we're well on our way to having tailor-made proteins that can do any number of things. The researchers used proteins borrowed from extremophile organisms - single-celled creatures who thrive in boiling-hot water, for example - and figured out a possible way to get the best of their stability and immunity to mega-heat while also making them more flexible and fast-acting (just the way we'd want for a mind-control substance).
Thanks to protein engineers like these, you might someday be able to drop some enzymes on a pound of beef, cook up some hamburgers for the boys which alter their sperm, and then unleash these weaponized boys on the unsuspecting populace of Orgyopolis. It will only take a few weeks, and soon you will have a sizable army of minions.
My apologies to the scientists involved in these studies, who in no way intend their work to be used by supervillains seeking to control people's minds with sperm.