Chickens Getting Their Wings Clipped

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Chickens can't fly well anyway, so why not get rid of their wings and replace them with meatier, tastier legs? That's not really why a group of scientists is tinkering with chicken limbs -- the real answer is that their experiments may eventually help prevent human limb deformities. And yet the successful research raises a possibility - monstrous to some, perhaps - tempting to others.

The journal Science reports that researchers at Harvard Medical School have successfully harvested basic chicken legs in chick embryos -- complete with leg-like muscles, and clawed implements -- by transferring a leg gene called Pitx1 into the area of the embryo where the wings usually sprout. Learning about the role of genes in limb formation, they believe, will lead to a greater understanding of limb development in humans and greater knowledge of Holt-Oram syndrome, a condition that produces truncated forearms.

Could a chicken farmers' conspiracy be lurking behind all this bio-tech talk? Evidently not, but it's the kind of mind-boggling possibility that genetic engineering seems to be raising constantly. Four legs instead of two, not to mention two additional juicy thighs. And who knows? Maybe a quadruple-breasted chicken is just around the corner.