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Shelly Fan

Shelly Xuelai Fan is a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, where she studies ways to make old brains young again. In addition to research, she's also an avid science writer with an insatiable obsession with biotech, AI and all things neuro. She spends her spare time kayaking, bike camping and getting lost in the woods.

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From This Author


Why Gene Silencing Could Launch a New Class of Blockbuster Drugs

Long before CRISPR, there was gene silencing. Ever since the Human Genome Project transcribed our genetic bible in 1997, scientists have dreamt of curing inherited diseases at the source. The first audacious idea? Shoot the...

Gene Therapy Had a Breakthrough 2017—2018 May Be Even Better

Gene therapy had a hell of a 2017. After decades of promises but failed deliveries, last year saw the field hitting a series of astonishing home runs. The concept of gene therapy is elegant: like...

Do Our Brains Use Deep Learning to Make Sense of the World?

The first time Dr. Blake Richards heard about deep learning, he was convinced that he wasn’t just looking at a technique that would revolutionize artificial intelligence. He also knew he was looking at something...

These Creepy Mini-Brains May Finally Crack Deadly Brain Cancer

Brain organoids look like something between a malformed human brain and a character from Monsters, Inc. But don’t be fooled by their grotesque appearance. Ever since their introduction three years ago, brain organoids—charmingly dubbed “mini-brains”...

Neuroscience Could Bring Us Eternal Bliss, But Is That a Good Thing?

What if the secret to eternal happiness is a brain implant? If you’re thinking that sounds like the premise of a Black Mirror episode, you’re not alone. Yet at the Society for Neuroscience annual conference...

How Bursts of Ultrasound Can Be Used to Flip Switches in the Brain

It sounds like the beginning of a Stephen King novel: a protagonist bolts up in bed, his unsuspecting brain picking up ultrasound waves crashing in the air. These waves have the power to fry...

Thought-Controlled Prosthetic Hand Restores 100 Realistic Touch Sensations

When Keven Walgamott reached out and grasped his wife’s hand, his face broke into an enormous smile. For the first time in 14 years, he could feel her soft fingers, pressing firmly into his prosthetic...

CRISPR Can Now Hitch a Ride on Nanoparticles to Battle Disease

It started like any other day. Dr. Hao Yin walked into the lab at MIT, ready to check on his transgenic mice. He had no idea he was about to make history. Yin’s mice harbored...

A ‘Google Maps’ for the Mouse Brain Details Neurons Like Never Before

Ask any neuroscientist to draw you a neuron, and it’ll probably look something like a star with two tails: one stubby with extensive tree-like branches, the other willowy, lengthy and dotted with spindly spikes. While...

Eternal Life Is Mathematically Impossible, Says New Aging Theory

Back in 2016, when the FDA green lighted metformin—a drug that’s shown to boost lifespan by up to 40 percent in animal models—for human trials, it signaled the first spark of a paradigm shift...

Here’s How to Get to Conscious Machines, Neuroscientists Say

“We cannot be conscious of what we are not conscious of.” – Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind Unlike the director leads you to believe, the protagonist of...

This ‘Living Touch Screen’ Is Made out of Bacteria and Gold

When it comes to touch screen devices, “grow” isn’t the first verb that comes to mind. After all, smartphones and their silicon-based inorganic brethren are built. Growing, in contrast, is a superpower that graces...

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