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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.


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Big Technology

‘Our customers want to know who is Apple, and what is it that we stand for,’ Steve Jobs once said. Do we know today?

Photo illustration. Photos: Foryou13/amtitus/Getty Images; Apple

Apple doesn’t typically bungle its marketing, yet its recent ad about working from home was uncharacteristically bad. The spot showed a team working furiously from their living rooms, communicating exclusively via Apple software. They used FaceTime for video conferencing, iMessages for chat, and Apple’s calendar app for scheduling. The production value was great, but the message somewhat delusional.

Anyone who’s worked from home knows the world Apple imagined is a fantasy. We use Zoom and Hangouts for video, not FaceTime. We use Slack and Teams for chat, not iMessage. Using Apple’s communications software for work excludes people who don’t own…

The technique rejuvenated six damaged lungs

Photo illustration. Photos (Getty Images): yodiyim; Andreas Rentz

Donated lungs have a short shelf life. After they’re removed from a donor, it’s a race against the clock to get them to a lucky recipient. The delicate, spongy organs are viable for only six to eight hours at most — if they’re suitable for transplant at all.

After a person dies, the lungs are often damaged, inflamed, or filled with fluid. As a result, only about 20% of donated lungs are deemed acceptable for transplant, a lower percentage than other organs, like the kidneys. More than 1,000 people in the United States are currently waiting for a lung transplant…

Illustrations: Leanne Rule

Desperate pet owners must either buy illegal medications or watch their cats die

A single glance at the foster kitten told veterinarian Jessica Thompson all she needed to know. Harper’s once-velvety gray coat was greasy and dull. She was still small — just five pounds — but her abdomen swelled like she had a baseball in her stomach. In the clinic, Thompson used a syringe to remove cloudy, yellowish fluid from the five-month-old cat. She had seen these symptoms two years before, in two other foster kittens. The disease, known as feline infectious peritonitis, is caused by a mutant form of a common feline virus. It most frequently strikes cats at the beginning…

Reengineering Life

The technique is capable of precisely editing mitochondria

Photo illustration. Image: 3d_man/Shutterstock

Reengineering Life is a series from OneZero about the astonishing ways genetic technology is changing humanity and the world around us.

Ever since CRISPR was first used to edit human cells in a dish in 2013, scientists have been hopeful about its potential to treat — and hopefully, eliminate — a wide spectrum of genetic diseases.

With the first experiments to use CRISPR in people underway, the gene-editing technique is showing promising signs in a few patients. But it turns out not all DNA is amenable to CRISPR.

Some genetic diseases, like those caused by mutations in the genome of…

Organoids are helping scientists study the coronavirus

Close up of purple gloved fingers holding up a small test tube of clear liquid of brain organoids.
A test tube containing brain organoids. Photo: Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, Johns Hopkins University

The tiny blobs of brain tissue that Thomas Hartung grows in his lab at Johns Hopkins University aren’t much to look at. Just barely visible, they are little more than squishy white specks.

Known as “mini brains,” or organoids, these minuscule structures made from stem cells contain neurons that spontaneously emit electrical activity as a real brain would. The ones Hartung grows resemble the brain of a human fetus at five months of development.

Hartung and his team are using the brain organoids to better understand SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. What they’ve found so far about the brain’s…

Reengineering Life

Three papers suggest it might not be safe to make gene-edited babies with CRISPR

Photo illustration. Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Reengineering Life is a series from OneZero about the astonishing ways genetic technology is changing humanity and the world around us.

A few weeks ago, OneZero reported new findings from a group of U.K. scientists showing that the gene-editing tool CRISPR could cause unintended DNA damage when used in human embryos. The results raised serious concerns about the safety of creating gene-edited babies.

Now there’s even more evidence that CRISPR can cause unwanted genetic mutations in embryos. After our story was published on June 16, two U.S. groups uploaded papers with similar findings to the preprint server bioRxiv. …

Reengineering Life

Gene therapy and CRISPR show promising signs

Photo illustration. Image: Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Millions of people around the world, including around 100,000 in the United States, suffer from sickle cell disease, a brutally painful inherited blood disorder. Most of them are of African descent. Over time, the disease worsens and can cause infections, organ damage, blindness, stroke, and early death.

“I can’t think of a more miserable disease than sickle cell,” James Taylor, director of the Howard University Center for Sickle Cell Disease in Washington, D.C., tells OneZero.

In the United States, sickle cell patients have long endured poor care and discrimination because of deep-rooted inequities in health care. A cure for the…

Developing the vaccine is only the first step

Photo: beijingstory/Getty Images

A future without the persistent threat of the coronavirus depends on a vaccine. Developing one is absolutely necessary “to return to a semblance of previous normality,” wrote Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health in the journal Science on May 11.

With more than 100 vaccines in development and a handful of them already being tested in human volunteers, public health officials are cautiously optimistic that one could be available as early as next year. …

New evidence suggests rising temperatures are giving drug-resistant pathogens an upper hand

Photo illustration. Photos: Getty Images (Raycat; Westend61; Andrew Merry; Alexandros Maragos)

The new coronavirus outbreak may have caught some public officials by surprise, but infectious disease specialists have been anticipating this worst-case scenario for decades. And they warn that the same gaps in our health care system that allowed Covid-19 to flourish could give a window for other types of pathogens to overwhelm us.

One long-standing threat is antimicrobial resistance (AMR), or when so-called superbugs evolve abilities to evade our best germ-killing drugs, whether they be antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, or anthelmintics (which rid bodies of parasites). An AMR outbreak has some similarities to a viral outbreak like Covid-19: There aren’t many…

Even Dr. Pimple Popper is tackling the coronavirus

Illustration: Wenkai Mao

Dr. Franz Wiesbauer could not believe what he was seeing.

It was the middle of February, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship was idling in port in Japan. On board, the number of passengers infected with the novel coronavirus was steadily climbing: first 10, then 200, then more than 600 cases. And as Wiesbauer looked on from his home in Austria, a slinking thought grew ever more pronounced in the forefront of his mind.

“‘Shit,’ I thought. When I saw how fast that virus spread within that ship, it was kind of scary,” he recalls.

Within weeks the coronavirus spread…


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