The CRISPR machines that can wipe out entire species

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The genetic-engineering tool could help combat malaria and invasive species. But should we use it?

Charles Darwin had no idea what a gene was. If we dropped the father of evolution into 2019, the idea that humans can willfully alter the genes of an entire species would surely seem like wizardry to him.

But CRISPR gene drives — a new, inconceivably powerful technique that forces genes to spread through a population — have the ability to do just that. Gene drives allow us to hone the blunt edges of natural selection for our own purposes, potentially preventing the spread of disease or eradicating invasive pests.

Yet as with any science performed at the frontier of our knowledge, we are still coming to terms with how powerful CRISPR gene drives might be. Playing the game of genomes means we may, in the future, choose which species live and which die — a near-unbelievable capability that scientists and ethicists agree presents us with unique moral, social and ethical challenges.

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Synthetic organisms are about to challenge what ‘alive’ really means

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We need to begin a serious debate about whether artificially evolved humans are our future, and if we should put an end to these experiments before it is too late.

In 2016, Craig Venter and his team at Synthetic Genomics announced that they had created a lifeform called JCVI-syn3.0, whose genome consisted of only 473 genes. This stripped-down organism was a significant breakthrough in the development of artificial life as it enabled us to understand more fully what individual genes do. (In the case of JCVI-syn3.0, most of them were used to create RNA and proteins, preserve genetic fidelity during reproduction and create the cell membrane. The functions of about a third remain a mystery.)

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What researchers with the world’s longest running study of human aging know for sure

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What is aging? That’s the question the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sought to answer in 1958 when it launched the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA)—now the world’s longest-running study of human aging.

Some 3,200 men and women have played a critical role in advancing our understanding of what it means to get older. And these particular volunteers made a lifelong commitment to participate in the research. In over six decades of work, BLSA researchers say they are certain of just two things: Aging is not synonymous with disease. And we all age differently.

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IQ scores are falling and have been for decades, new study finds

The research suggests that genes aren’t what’s driving the decline in IQ scores

“It’s not that dumb people are having more kids than smart people,” researcher says

(CNN) — IQ scores have been steadily falling for the past few decades, and environmental factors are to blame, a new study says.

The research suggests that genes aren’t what’s driving the decline in IQ scores, according to the study, published Monday.

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Gene editing for good

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How CRISPR could transform global development.

Today, more people are living healthy, productive lives than ever before. This good news may come as a surprise, but there is plenty of evidence for it. Since the early 1990s, global child mortality has been cut in half. There have been massive reductions in cases of tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. The incidence of polio has decreased by 99 percent, bringing the world to the verge of eradicating a major infectious disease, a feat humanity has accomplished only once before, with smallpox. The proportion of the world’s population in extreme poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.90 per day, has fallen from 35 percent to about 11 percent.

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The immigrant maps of America: Genome study of over 770,000 people reveals the ancestral origins of each part of the country

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Scientists from AncestryDNA analysed genome-wide genotype data from 774,516 Americans

This allowed researchers to identify the genetic ‘clusters’ within, or the genetic communities

The study reveals ancestral origins and migration patterns for specific groups across the country

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Lab grown meat prices have dropped 30,000 times in less than four years and are about 3-4 times more expensive than regular ground beef

Lab-grown meat could be on your plate within the next five years. For the past few years, the barrier to getting test-tube meat into the hands of consumers has been the cost of production. In 2013, it was around $325,000 to make this stuff in a lab, but the process has been refined, and the cost now is just $11.36.

In 2015, the cost was $44 per pound.

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An End to Aging: Can Science Allow Humans to To Become Immortal?

AGING — A LAW OR A SUGGESTION?

The inevitability of aging may be no more than yet another biological theory that scientific advances will retire in the near future. Some scientists today say that longevity is a societal concept that we may no longer need to uphold as a static law of nature, but instead, as one that can be rewritten to our benefit.

Researchers from fields spanning genetics to artificial intelligence (AI) are working towards a future where we will have to stop using a “midlife crisis” to justify our ill-advised decisions (but is it really ever the wrong time to buy a Porsche?).

While there have been innumerable theoretical ideas and initiatives for dodging the Grim Reaper, many actual strategies that are being developed today fall into one of two camps: biomedical or technological.

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