The strange case of the cyclops sheep – Tien Nguyen

In the 1950s, a group of ranchers in Idaho were baffled when their sheep gave birth
to lambs with a singular deformity. Mystified by these cyclops sheep, they called in scientists from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture to investigate. The researchers hypothesized
that the pregnant ewes had snacked on poisonous
birth defect-causing plants. They collected the local flora
and fed samples to lab rats, but struggled to replicate the effect. So they decided
to directly observe the sheep with one scientist even living
with the herd for three summers. After a decade of trial and error,
the scientists finally found the culprit, wild corn lilies. The lilies contained an active molecule
with six connected rings that they named cyclopamine
in reference to the cyclops sheep. They didn’t know exactly
how cyclopamine caused the defect but told ranchers to steer clear. It took about four decades before
a team of biologists, led by Professor Philip Beachy, stumbled upon the answer. His lab was studying a specific gene
found in many species, from mice to humans, called the hedgehog gene. It was named by two scientists, who later
shared the Noble Prize for their work, who found that mutating
this gene in fruit flies produced pointy spikes like a hedgehog. Beachy and his colleagues performed
genetic modifications to turn off the hedgehog genes in mice. This resulted in severe defects
in the development of their brains, organs, and eyes or, rather, eye. Then while perusing a textbook, Beachy
came across photos of the cyclops sheep and realized what had eluded scientists
for four decades. Something must have gone awry
involving the hedgehog gene. Let’s take a step back. Genes contain instructions that tell
cells what to do and when to do it, and they communicate their directives
using proteins. The hedgehog gene itself tells cells
to release a so-called hedgehog protein, which kicks off a complex
series of cellular signals. Here’s how it works in normal
healthy development. Hedgehog protein latches on to
a protein called patched. That inhibits, or holds, patched back, allowing another protein called
smoothened to freely signal the cells, telling them where to go
and what kind of tissues to become. Cyclopamine, say in the form
of a delicious corn lily, interrupts this pathway
by binding onto smoothened. That locks smoothened up so that
it’s unable to send the signals needed to mold the brain
into two hemispheres, and form fingers or separate eyes. So even though the hedgehog
protein is still doing its job of keeping the way clear for smoothened, cyclopamine blocks smoothened
from passing along its chemical message. That settled the science
behind the one-eyed sheep, but Beachy and his team
caught the glimmer of another more beneficial connection. They noted that uncontrolled activation
of the smoothened protein was associated with a human syndrome. It’s known as Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome,
and it predisposes people to certain cancers. The scientists proposed putting cyclopamine’s smoothened
binding powers to good use as a treatment for these cancers, as long as the patient wasn’t pregnant. Unfortunately, researchers eventually
found that cyclopamine causes negative side effects, and its chemical properties
make it difficult to work with. But they did discover that closely
related molecules are safe and effective, and two of these drugs were approved
in 2012 and 2015 as skin cancer medicines. When those farmers first saw
the cyclops sheep, they could have chalked it up to
a freak genetic mutation and walked away. Instead, their decision to investigate
turned a mystery into medicine showing that sometimes
there’s more than meets the eye.

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100 Responses

  1. dracl plays says:

    Pun button

  2. HeyItzRane says:

    finds a poisonous plant

    touches it

  3. Limerence says:

    The cyclops sheep. Though this was going to be another story about greek myths.

  4. Nicholas Gerry says:

    It's actually Sonic HedgeHog (SHH) isn't it? ?

  5. IntermediateJesus says:

    It's actually the "Sonic the hedgehog gene"
    Not just hedgehog gene. No seriously….

  6. Lilith [Alien hybrid goddess] {SCP-5002} says:

    Puns boi

  7. Dragon Huntress says:

    I learn more from these videos than from middle school

  8. Bela Kirjak says:

    The pun….

  9. Paul Schwennesen says:


  10. flaminq -Nat the Wolfchild- says:

    You can only imagine what the farmers were thinking when this happened.

  11. Aditya More says:

    Sheep Home Alabama

  12. Bosco Wu says:

    Anyone realize how corn lily flowers look very similar to the poisonous flowers said earlier?

  13. MaxiMan says:

    eye puns

  14. DreamSoulshine says:

    Lol why would you not mention the fact that this gene was called "Sonic Hedgehog"? Too smart for cartoons?

  15. Devin McGuire says:

    When he said the protein was called Smoothened I thought he was making it up

  16. Hey Eaglet says:

    "human syndrome"

    …are we really that bad?

  17. Symphuzic Bey says:

    I'm pretty sure all of us had the urge to Google cyclops sheep.

  18. Natalie Kelemen says:

    If I had a cyclops sheep, I would name her Saffi. ?

  19. un- kreativ says:

    Those are just happy accidents!

  20. Jesus Joseph says:

    SHH=Sonic the Hedge Hog

  21. nidhra iyer says:

    Really love your work

  22. fun time Diaz says:

    is it me or the one eyed sheep looks so cute in the ending

  23. Ness lopez says:


  24. Opti Buzzer says:

    There is more than meets the eye (lol)

  25. Levi Ackerman says:

    Its rare than its expensive i want cyclopse sheep or that flower

  26. Musically Viral Videos says:

    in india a lot of stuff happens like this…but they ignore it and name those mutated things as god etc

  27. Weeb Gaming says:

    I see that there are many eye jokes and my I does not like that

  28. Weeb Gaming says:

    I see that there are many eye jokes and my I does not like that

  29. boo boo says:

    The farmers were heroes. They should get a prize for scientific discovery.

  30. Necro Boomer says:

    I notice you never mentioned that he full name of the gene is called sonic hedgehog gene

  31. Just Stardust says:

    The farmers could have made many choices but the one they did changed the world for better.

  32. Henry Hung says:

    Glasses companies: bruh

  33. Max S-H says:


  34. ꧁༺British Pee༻꧂ says:

    Ted Ed did this so we watch HES video and make it us watch and sun for ever!
    Dun du dunnn

  35. JD8 says:

    "More than meets the eye." Ahahaha I get that joke. It's because they're sheep and sheep are meat for food. Hahaha I get it.

  36. Susu Moniz says:

    Sonic who???

  37. John Bolton says:

    If you've read the Bible, then you know the story of Jacob and how a certain stick and a certain source of water can alter the form of goats, etc… but what do I know about genetics and God?

  38. zoebigmac01 says:

    Me:* watches * i dont even know these words..

    ALSO ME: * countinues watching *

  39. Snowball Cookie says:

    That pun at the end hit me like a TRAIN WRECK

  40. val kob says:

    I got my eye set on ewe!

  41. greenblock45 says:


  42. anis an15 says:

    Press "like" if u went directly after watching this video to google cyclop sheeps images

  43. Ronald John Cabreros says:

    In case you dont know what does it stands SHH it stands for Sonic Hedgehog im not kidding

  44. Lyla Redeker says:

    Not Baa, now Ba

  45. Goofy Goober says:

    sheep gets effected

    fEeDS tHe pOiSIn to rATs

  46. Goofy Goober says:

    You do know rats are diffrent from sheep and humans. Stoopid

  47. MC Mushroom says:

    Oh yeah SHH
    Sonic Hedgehog gene

  48. Phuong Tang says:

    Area 51 leaked footage.

  49. VCuber X says:

    biggest buildup to a pun ever

  50. la la says:

    Aight bruh im gonna get myself some wild corn lillies and hog them up when i get pergent

  51. Coco Bird Remastered says:

    Image eating a sheep and remembering that it could’ve been 1 eyed

  52. Nicki Lewis says:

    Where can I join?

  53. Jackson Leegill says:

    The hedgehog gene is called sonic hedgehog lol

  54. alexa o says:

    I searched up the images thinking they'd be cute

    I was solely mistaken

  55. Llolipop studios says:

    The pun is worse than being rick rolled

  56. Phi Dương says:

    I'd still eat it

  57. Phi Dương says:

    Can we just stop to talk about how terrifying a hedgehog mosquito would be

  58. Sweetie Quin says:

    2:09 Me feeling confident about the group work.

    2:12 realizing that I messed everything up.

  59. YesButNo says:

    hedgehog gene:

    gotta go fast

  60. Tree Quackers says:

    Not tryna ruin the mood but lab rats still being around today is kinda upsetting.. even if this was in the past, it’s still happening. :c

  61. Kairro Mouet says:

    Pun rating: 7/10

  62. Unimportant says:

    They became the very thing they swore to one day destroy

  63. MightySparkle says:

    im afraid of no man.
    but that thing, cyclops sheep
    it scares me

  64. Vlad P. says:

    The sound in the biggening makes me want to puke and gives me a suicidal feeling

  65. LVB animations and stuff says:

    ThiS guy really likeS the SSSS Sound

  66. Tiffany b says:

    It's actually called Sonic hedgehog Jean. I guess they didn't want to say it on the video LOL

  67. Siena Patrick says:

    "more then MEATS the EYE"

  68. Isabella Pappas says:

    All the scientists look so sad

  69. frankie scheckel says:

    Dont look up cyclops sheep they really dont look as cute as the animation ?

  70. Leena Thakoor says:

    The pun was 'more that meets the EYE!'

  71. Hii621 says:

    Those sheep are nightmare fuel look them up ?

  72. Dadson worldwide says:

    with so many expirements on mice it must be a changed biology by now.We prolly are
    creating our own futire pandemic.

  73. James Horace says:

    How am I supposed to react to this, TED? Cyclop sheeps?

  74. Doppleganger Sparklesplat says:

    I wonder what the lifespan of the cyclops lambs were. Tried looking it up online, but couldn't find anything. 🙁

  75. MaddieCanDraw says:

    Cool is this what happened to mike wasowski

  76. Alright Studios says:

    Half the eye lid closes when they wink XD

  77. SPICYLIZARDS 34876 says:

    In guessing the cyclops sheep didnt last for very long after birth same with the mice…

  78. Lilla K says:

    This is one of your best videos in my opinion. Telling how genes and molecules are affected from each other nicely.

  79. jallikaine says:

    the sheep looks cute AF

  80. animator rad says:

    Seems like cyclopanime watched too much anime,so they wanted that word in their name.

  81. Katana Slash says:

    Oh god, I just searched up Oned eyed Sheep, its terrifying

  82. Kazoo says:


  83. magi says:

    brilliant video!

  84. Narnia Dici says:

    SHH stands for Sonic the Hedgehog

  85. I like pigeons says:

    When in Minecraft you keep breeding the sheeps with their parents

  86. I Am Kocka says:

    The video makes the cyclops animals look cute. I searched "cyclops sheep" on google… I will probably not sleep tonight.

  87. Hello imnothing says:

    Unexpectedly, sheeps with one eye are scary than normal.

  88. Joshua Boylan says:

    Wow TEDed way to be wrong and call it “the hedgehog gene” instead of “the Sonic The HedgeHog gene”, I feel it’s a cool little fact to throw in and kinda just sucks to not include

  89. Adam Mills says:

    Wait does this mean that we could have spiked sheeps?

  90. Gian Abella says:

    The thumbnail is like: The Strange Case of Two Eyed Sheep

  91. Ultra Square says:

    1900: we will have cyclops sheeps in the future
    1950: we will have flying cars in the future

  92. Large Unidentifiable Reptile says:

    They’re trying really hard not to call the gene “sonic hedgehog”, but rest assured, that is the actual name of the gene. I am not kidding.


    beep beep,i'm a one-eyed sheep

  94. Dredhwen says:

    They're called "meep" and they're pretty common in distant lands

  95. yunotastic says:

    How water sheep's parents are made

  96. Bleh Bleh says:

    The nose of the hedgehog gene looks like a weener. You can't unsee it now.

  97. PRINCE KRAZIE says:

    Here I was thinking about Odysseus

  98. Dank_Smirk 2nd Channel says:

    So I just looked up those sheep and I can’t help but see their eyelids as looking like pursed lips.

  99. Ethan Wong says:

    When you say non profit but have a yt channel that makes money. Hmmmm

  100. Wincent Ivan says:

    Cool, now cyclops might be real.

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