Science

Disruptive science can have a significant impact outside of our own domains of research and into our personal lives. Keeping abreast of these developments can help prepare and inspire.

Gene Editing Creates Primate Model for Autism

A joint US-China study has engineered macaque monkeys to express a mutation linked to autism and other human neurodevelopmental disorders. The monkey showed certain behavioural traits similar to humans with the same condition.

Russian Scientist Plans to CRISPR-Edit More Babies

Russian biologist Denis Rebrikov has announced his intentions to produce further gene-edited babies, ignoring the scientific consensus that this should not be done until an ethical framework is constructed to regulate the science involved. Rebrikov’s plans could occur before the end of the year if he receives approval in time.

US Government Restricts Research on Foetal Tissue

The US government has ended medical research funding for scientists using foetal tissue, and cancelled a multi million-dollar contract for a laboratory at the University of California at San Francisco, which required the material to test new HIV therapies. According to a White House spokesperson, the decision was taken by President Trump himself.

Mirror Mirror Universe: An Explanation for Dark Matter and Anti-Matter?

There could be another universe right next to our own: a mirror universe that goes a long way to explaining many of the inconsistencies and questions we’ve found in our own. Scientists are working towards finding this hidden space which could contain mirror atoms, molecules and whole planets to our own.

Stem Cells Edited In Vivo For the First Time

Researchers have genetically modified stem cells inside the bodies of mice for the first time, in a study that could lead eventually to new potential for stem cell therapies. The study also shows potential for studying genetically-edited stem cells within the body, rather than in the lab.

CRISPR Twins’ Lives Could Be Shortened by Two Years

He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who created the first gene-edited twin children last year, could have unknowingly shortened their lives by more than 1.9 years. A study into the DNA and death records of 400,000 volunteers in the UK Biobank found the genetic mutations to gene CCR5 were “of quite strong effect.”

Fungus Genetically Modified to Wipe Out Malaria-Carrying Mosquitoes

University of Maryland scientists have genetically modified a fungus to produce a toxin fatal to mosquitoes, in order to reduce the malaria death toll they currently cause. An out-of-lab trial destroyed a mosquito population almost entirely within 45 days, leading some to criticise the work as “too dangerous” for the real world.

Autism-Causing Variations Found in “Junk” DNA

Princeton University researchers have used AI techniques to uncover junk DNA mutations which can lead to autism. The findings are the first to link functionally link mutations in regulatory DNA with a disease like autism, and possibly prove that the changes affect how genes are expressed in the brain.

Gold Nanoparticles Improves CRISPR Cell Delivery

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have proposed gold nanoparticles as a new way to deliver CRISPR Cas-12a to cells. These nanoparticles can be filled with the necessary CRISPR components to edit genes cleanly, with between 10% and 20% of targeted cells successfully edited during lab studies. No toxic side effects were found from the process.

Genetic Mutations Linked to Lupus Found

Researchers from the Australian National University have discovered two rare genetic mutations linked to Lupus, the first time a cause of the disease has been determined. Before this study, it was believed the two mutations, BLK and BANK1, had little role in human autoimmunity and related diseases.