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

Reengineering Life

In OneZero. More on Medium.

Reengineering Life

The technique could eventually lead to fewer cattle needed to produce the same amount of beef

Photo illustration; Image source: Alison Van Eenennaam/UC Davis

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

On a sunny Tuesday in April, amid a global pandemic, a newborn calf took his first shaky steps in a barn outside Sacramento. Animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam and postdoctoral researcher Joey Owen, looked on in awe. This wasn’t just any bull calf. This animal had been gene edited so that he could eventually produce more male offspring than normal.

The bull calf, affectionately named Cosmo, was the result of five years of research. Nine months earlier, Van Eenennaam…


Reengineering Life

17 years after the Human Genome Project, researchers unlocked the X chromosome

Photo illustration of X chromosomes against a background of wispy DNA helices.
Photo illustration; Image source: Science Photo Library — SCIEPRO

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

By the time the Human Genome Project ended its 13-year run in 2003, it had mapped about 90% of our entire genetic code. But some of the remaining parts have proved difficult to decode. As DNA reading technology has improved over the years, those gaps are gradually filling in and researchers are getting closer to building a complete picture of the genome. …


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…


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

The treatment successfully lowered cholesterol in monkeys

Photo ilustration, source: Teeramet Thanomkiat/EyeEm/Getty Images

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

Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally, killing nearly 18 million people each year. It’s often caused by a buildup of cholesterol, a waxy substance in the blood. But curiously, some people with rare genetic mutations are naturally protected against high cholesterol. Consequently, these people have a dramatically lower risk of heart attack, a form of heart disease.

That has led scientists to consider whether tweaking the DNA code in people without this beneficial trait could lower…


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…


Reengineering Life

The experiment raises major safety concerns for gene-edited babies

Photo illustration, sources: Wellcome Trust, ZEPHYR/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

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

A team of scientists has used the gene-editing technique CRISPR to create genetically altered human embryos in a London lab, and the results of the experiment do not bode well for the prospect of gene-edited babies.

Biologist Kathy Niakan and her team at the Francis Crick Institute wanted to better understand the role of a particular gene in the earliest stages of human development. So, using CRISPR, they deleted that gene in human embryos that had been donated for…


Reengineering Life

The technique could pave the way for a human treatment

Photo illustration. Photo: Tara Moore/Getty Images

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

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard recently took a step toward a future where hereditary deafness could be corrected with a single injection into the ear. They used a super-precise type of gene editing to temporarily improve hearing in deaf lab mice.

The technique, known as base editing — sometimes called CRISPR 2.0 — allowed them to repair a mutation in the TMC1 gene. …


Reengineering Life

Researchers used CRISPR to make ‘humanized’ mice

Photo illustration. Source: filo/Getty Images

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

To study Covid-19 in the lab, scientists need animal models — that is, animals that mimic how a disease unfolds in humans. But there’s one big problem: Mice, the mainstay of laboratory research, are resistant to Covid-19 infection.

Scientists have been racing to find the best animal models to understand how the coronavirus infects cells and causes disease, as well as test experimental treatments and vaccines before the can be tried in humans. But since normal mice can’t be…


Reengineering Life

It could be as simple to use as a pregnancy test — but it’s not there yet

Photo illustration. Source: South_agency/Getty Images

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

By now you’ve probably heard of the lab technique CRISPR. The powerful gene-editing tool is being explored to treat a number of diseases and has been used to tweak the genomes of existing plants and animals. It’s also been imagined as a way to create so-called designer babies that have handpicked genetic traits.

But CRISPR’s precise genome-editing ability is also being harnessed as a tool for diagnosing disease — a use that could come to fruition much sooner than…

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

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