Weekend Reads

(Credit: Pixabay)

This week: Reversed ageing, pig organs, the future of humankind and citizen scientists using genetics to solve past crimes. 


Reversed Ageing, Pig Organs, and the Future of Humankind

For a man playing God, George Church certainly looks the part. Over the past 45 years, the Harvard geneticist and his bushy white beard have published hundreds of papers and earned dozens of patents expanding our ability to read, write, and edit DNA, the code of life.

Weekend Reads

Dr. George Church of MIT and Harvard. (Credit: Church Lab)

He was among the first to apply the gene editing tool CRISPR to mammalian cells (he tied with his former postdoc). Church and his eclectic lab have pushed bioengineering in multiple directions, showing how it can be used to resurrect mammoths, eradicate malaria-carrying mosquitos, produce atmosphere-cleansing bacteria, and even detect bits of dark matter pelting us from space.

He once stored 70 billion copies of his book, Regenesis, in a drop of DNA the size of a period after translating it into the As, Ts, Cs, and Gs of DNA’s double helix. But Matthew Hudson, writing for Medium, wanted to talk with Church about the future of humanity, and to that end, he mused on pig organs, dating apps, brains in a dish, and artificial intelligence. Read Full Story →


Cold Cases Heat Up as Law Enforcement Uses Genetics to Solve Past Crimes

GEDmatch — an online DNA profile warehouse that hosts genetic data from roughly one million users who voluntarily uploaded this intimate information in the hopes of identifying possible relatives also using the site has gotten quite some attention the last couple of months. 

Law enforcement officials’ ability to upload a profile and search for any matches—for little cost and usually without a warrant—has reignited hopes for closing a lot of stubborn cold cases. But that means site users may now find themselves unwittingly offering information to criminal investigations. Dina Fine Maron, writing for Scientific American, explores. Read Full Story →


The Citizen Scientist Who Finds Killers From Her Couch

CeCe More is, in her own estimation, among the most experienced genetic genealogists in the world. She mixes genetics, cencus records, and Facebook friend lists to connect DNA from murder scenes to a suspect.

Weekend Reads

Genetic genealogist CeCe Moore with Henry Louis Gates Jr. on the set of the PBS series Finding Your Roots. (Credit: PBS Finding Your Roots/ via Technology Review)

Moore’s genetic sleuthing skills have been seen on PBS’s Finding Your Roots, on 20/20, and on daytime TV programs like The Dr. Oz Show, where she uses direct-to-consumer DNA tests to find the parents of adoptees, foundlings abandoned in dumpsters, and “war children” fathered during conflicts. She has solved hundreds of cases of unknown parentage.

Antonio Regalado over at Technology Review writes about how Moore is using her geneic knowledge to expose murderes. Read Full Story →


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Weekend Reads