Scientists have successfully performed CRISPR gene editing in a live human body for the first time ever

CRISPR-Cas9 is the cutting-edge genomic technology that essentially lets you target exact sequences in DNA and then cut into them like a knife and insert or remove a gene. You may remember it from that Chinese scientist who successfully (but controversially) implanted gene-edited embryos into a woman who then gave birth to live lab babies. More often, it's used to create things like malaria-resistant mosquitoes or mushrooms that don't brown as fast.

But it does have a lot of practical medical potential, too. It's already been used to remove HIV from a patient's genome. And now, after CRISPRing out a blindness-causing gene from mice, scientists have now successfully scaled-up this procedure to work in a live human body. From NPR:

In this new experiment, doctors at the Casey Eye Institute in Portland, Ore., injected (into the eye of a patient who is nearly blind from a condition called Leber congenital amaurosis) microscopic droplets carrying a harmless virus that had been engineered to deliver the instructions to manufacture the CRISPR gene-editing machinery.

[…]

The goal is that once the virus carrying the CRISPR instructions has been infused into the eye, the gene-editing tool will slice out the genetic defect that caused the blindness. That would, the researchers hope, restore production of a crucial protein and prevent the death of cells in the retina, as well as revive other cells — enabling patients to regain at least some vision.

[…]

The procedure, which takes about an hour to perform, involves making tiny incisions that enable access to the back of the eye.

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Ted Chiang's "Op Ed From the Future": socialized transhumanism vs American oligarchy

The New York Times has inaugurated its "Op-Eds From the Future" ("science fiction authors, futurists, philosophers and scientists write op-eds that they imagine we might read 10, 20 or even 100 years in the future") with a piece from Ted Chiang (previously) that imagines a future in which genetic engineering of human embryos is commonplace, leading to a well-intentioned attempt at preventing literal speciation into the haves and have-nots by subsidizing "intelligence boosting" genetic manipulation for lower-income families. Read the rest

Red Delicious, that most vile breed of Apple, no longer America's favorite

The Red Delicious—picture-perfect on the outside but mealy, clammy, fleshy yet flavorless within—is no longer America's favorite apple. The Gala overtook it, and hopefully the noble Granny Smith will further dethrone it soon.

Red Delicious’ slippage will be mourned by few. As Sarah Yager wrote in the Atlantic in a history of the variety a few years ago, the Red Delicious is a “paradox”: “alluring yet undesirable, the most produced and arguably the least popular apple in the United States.” They’re gorgeous to look at, like a cartoon apple landed in your real-life fruit bowl. It has a deep-red color and perfectly unblemished skins; its bodies always taper to a perfect little five-pointed bottom. But its flesh tastes—as the two enthusiasts who run the apple fan website Orange Pippin write—too sweet, “like a slightly over-ripe melon”; also, “the skin can be quite tough.” In understated tones, Orange Pippin’s expert apple-tasters add: “Overall Red Delicious can be quite a refreshing apple to eat, but its chief characteristic is that it has almost no flavor at all.”

The Red Delicious is the perfect symbol of American culture. Its attractive surface doesn't just hide the rot beneath, it tells you up front how great it tastes.

Previously in the disgusting Red Delicious apple:

How the worst apple took over the United States, and continues to spreadWhy the disgusting Red Delicious apple rules American grocery storesWhy the most horrible apple in the world is also the most grown\

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Have you always wanted a pet micropig? This Chinese genetics firm is making one for you

BGI, the genomics institute in Shenzhen credited with a number of breakthroughs in genomic sequencing, is applying its expertise on making tiny pigs for pets. According to Nature.com the pigs will weigh about 15 kilograms when they mature.

At the [Shenzhen International Biotech Leaders Summit in China] the institute quoted a price tag of 10,000 yuan (US$1,600) for the micropigs, but that was just to "help us better evaluate the market”, says Yong Li, technical director of BGI’s animal-science platform. In future, customers will be offered pigs with different coat colours and patterns, which BGI says it can also set through gene editing.

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A reasonable and fair breakdown of the facts on GM food

There's no reliable evidence that GM crops are dangerous to eat. On the other hand, they aren't the best way to reduce world hunger, and you can basically roll your eyes at anybody claiming GM crops are environmentally sustainable. Greg Jaffe cuts through the myths of GM food at The Atlantic. Read the rest