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Genetics


Analysis and insight on the advancements in genetics. Stay updated as Singularity Hub discusses the most important trends in genetics research.

How Much Do Our Genes Restrict Free Will?

Many of us believe we are masters of our own destiny, but new research is revealing the extent to which our behavior is influenced by our genes. It’s now possible to decipher our individual genetic...

This Baby Horse Was Cloned Using DNA That Was Frozen for 40 Years

When Dolly the sheep was born in 1996, she instantly achieved worldwide fame for being the first-ever animal to be cloned from an adult cell. Since then, she hasn’t had many competitors for the...

A CRISPR Baby Future? New Report Outlines Path to Human Germline Editing

What will it take for CRISPR babies to become medically acceptable? Earlier this month, an international commission of scientists released a highly anticipated report detailing the steps needed to turn a gene-editing fiasco into...

Scientists Gene-Hack Cotton Plants to Make Them Every Color of the Rainbow

Imagine this: You’re on a drive through cotton country. The sun’s out, top’s down. It’s a beautiful, totally normal day. Only, what was once a sea of white puff balls has transformed into a...

A Year After Gene Therapy, Boys With Muscular Dystrophy Are Healthier and Stronger

Two and a half years ago, a study published in Science Advances detailed how the gene editing tool CRISPR/Cas-9 repaired genetic mutations related to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). The study was a proof of...

A Newly-Discovered Tiny CRISPR Protein Packs a Giant Punch For Human Gene Editing

The CRISPR family just grew bigger. The newcomer? A tiny DNA-chomping Cas protein, tucked away inside giant viruses. That’s the recent finding from Dr. Jennifer Doudna’s lab, one of the original discoverers of CRISPR, at...

For the First Time, Scientists Fully Sequenced the Human X Chromosome

The sequencing of the human genome was one of the greatest scientific feats of the past century, but it’s a little-known fact that it’s still a work in progress with considerable gaps. New research...

A Renaissance of Genomics and Drugs Is Extending Human Longevity

The causes of aging are extremely complex and unclear. But with longevity clinical trials increasing, more answers—and questions—are emerging than ever before. With the dramatic demonetization of genome reading and editing over the past decade,...

Forget Exercise—These Mice Got Ripped With Gene Therapy

Trying to hack fitness is a multi-million-dollar industry; we’ve all seen at least one ad featuring a purported miracle product that claims it can make people lose weight and look great—without even trying. From...

Can Genes Explain Why Coronavirus Seriously Sickens Some and Spares Others?

In the early 1980s, a deadly epidemic was gaining momentum. Caused by a virus dubbed HIV, AIDs has since infected and killed millions of people around the world. But not everyone who is exposed...

$100 Genome Sequencing Will Yield a Treasure Trove of Genetic Data

What would the implications be if decoding your genes cost less than a pair of designer jeans? We might soon find out after a Chinese company claimed it can sequence the human genome for...

Gene Therapy Is Successfully Treating a Common Form of Inherited Blindness

K.L. always knew he might be completely blind before reaching adulthood. Even as a child he realized something was wrong with his eyes. Although he could see enough to navigate the world in daytime, as...

The Top Biotech Trends We’ll Be Watching in 2020

Last year left us with this piece of bombshell news: He Jiankui, the mastermind behind the CRISPR babies scandal, has been sentenced to three years in prison for violating Chinese laws on “scientific research...

Gene Therapy for Sickle-Cell Anemia Looks Promising—but It’s Riddled With Controversy

Gene therapy is fighting to enter mainstream medicine. With sickle cell disease, the fight is heating up. Roughly two years ago, the FDA made the historic decision to approve the first gene therapy in the...

How Far Are We from (Accurately and Safely) Editing Human Embryos?

We can already edit genes in human embryos. We can even do it in a way to pass the edits down generations, fundamentally changing a family’s genetic makeup. Doing it well, however, is far more...

Designer Babies? Simulation Shows They Won’t Happen Anytime Soon

Roughly a year ago, the creation of CRISPRed twins reignited fierce debate and trepidation about our oncoming era of designer babies. The experiment, designed to protect the babies against HIV, failed miserably. But He...

Everything You Need to Know About Superstar CRISPR Prime Editing

All right, let’s do this one last time. My name is CRISPR. I was made from a bacterial defense system, and for years I’ve been the one and only gene editing wunderkind. I’m pretty...

CRISPR Just Created a Hornless Bull, and It’s a Step Forward for Gene-Edited Food

There’s a practice in farming not often talked about. To prevent accidental harm to human handlers and other cattle, bulls generally have their horn-producing cells surgically removed before the horns permanently attach to their...

With These 4 Breakthroughs, We’ll Be Able to Write Whole Genomes From Scratch

The ability to read genomes has transformed our understanding of biology. Being able to write them would give us unprecedented control over the fabric of life.  Rapid advances in DNA sequencing and gene editing technology...

Russia Could Take the Lead on Human Gene Editing

There's broad consensus that genetically modifying humans isn't a good idea, at least not anytime in the near future. But it seems Russia has less qualms about the idea, which could leave it to...

First Human CRISPR Trial in the US Aims to Cure Inherited Blindness

Gene editing is advancing at a faster pace than most of us can keep up with. One significant recent announcement was gene editing tool CRISPR’s application to non-genetic diseases thanks to a new ability...

Editing RNA Expands CRISPR’s Use Far Beyond Genetic Diseases

CRISPR advances have been coming so frequently that it’s hard to keep track. In just a few years, it’s evolved from a nifty genome word editor to a full-on biological Swiss army knife. There’s the...

Cancer-Killing Living Drug Is Made Safer With a Simple Off Switch

When it comes to battling cancer, our most powerful weapon is also our most dangerous. You’ve heard of CAR-T: the cellular immunotherapy extracts a patient’s own immune cells, amps up their tumor-hunting prowess using gene...

CRISPR in Russia: The World’s Next Gene-Edited Babies May Not Be Far Away

When Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced he had edited the genomes of two babies last November, he sparked an international outcry. Many feared he had opened the floodgates to human genetic engineering. It seems...

The Prickly Debate on Germline Gene Therapy, and Moving It Forward

In 2016, a healthy baby boy came screaming into the world in a Mexican clinic. Harboring DNA from three parents, the baby had had his genes dramatically altered while still an embryo. Without the...

New Lifelike Biomaterial Self-Regenerates and Has a Metabolism

Life demands flux. Every living organism is constantly changing: cells divide and die, proteins build and disintegrate, DNA breaks and heals. Life demands metabolism—the simultaneous builder and destroyer of living materials—to continuously upgrade our bodies....

As We Democratize Biology, We Must Avoid Biologizing Democracy

Technology is rapidly being demonetized and democratized, and that includes biotechnology. Almost anyone can now access and apply powerful biotech tools like genetic testing for a broad range of purposes. In addition, recent scientific...

The Gene Therapy Trial Aiming to Fend Off Alzheimer’s

There’s a test for Alzheimer’s risk that genetic counselors don’t like to talk about. It’s not that they’re hiding the information—rather, it’s because Alzheimer’s has no cure. There are no consensus methods to actively prevent...

Scientists Just Added Four New Letters to the Genetic Code

A four-letter alphabet might seem limited, but it’s all nature needed to write the instructions for all life on the planet. News that researchers have added four letters to the genetic alphabet opens the...

Controversial ‘Gene Drives’ Just Worked in Mammals for the First Time

The phrase “gene drive” often sends a shudder down a scientist’s spine: one of awe, dread, and wonder. Tiny snippets of engineered DNA, gene drives are nuclear-grade powerhouses that utterly destroy the rules of inheritance....

How Genome Sequencing and Senolytics Can Help Us Live Healthier, Longer

The causes of aging are extremely complex and unclear. With the dramatic demonetization of genome reading and editing over the past decade, and Big Pharma, startups, and the FDA starting to face aging as a...

Twins in Space: The Impact of Space Travel on Gene Expression

Researchers have had a rare opportunity to see how conditions on the International Space Station translated to changes in gene expression by comparing identical twin astronauts: one of the twins spent close to a...

CRISPR Just Got More Powerful With an “On” Switch

For all its gene-editing prowess, mechanistically CRISPR is a bit like a power tool with a broken “off” switch. Hear me out: the entire CRISPR machinery is designed in a test tube, and once constructed...

The Top Biotech and Medicine Advances to Expect in 2019

2018 was bonkers for science. From a woman who gave birth using a transplanted uterus, to the infamous CRISPR baby scandal, to forensics adopting consumer-based genealogy test kits to track down criminals, last year was...

How Scientists Hacked Photosynthesis to Up Crop Yields By 40 Percent

Almost every living creature on Earth relies on photosynthesis for its survival, but the process is far from efficient. Now some clever genetic engineering that gets around one of the process’s stumbling blocks has...

Could an Atlas of the Brain’s Genome Solve Neuropsychiatric Disorders?

Dr. Thomas Lehner was tired of his research repeatedly hitting a wall. A scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health, Lehner studies the genetic underpinnings of neuropsychiatric disorders. Teasing out associated genes turned out...

Gene Drives Survived a Proposed UN Ban in 2018—What’s Next?

In September 2018, a lab-based study published in Nature Biotechnology confirmed what many had long believed possible. The experiment involved cages of a few hundred mosquitoes, free to fly around and reproduce—but with a...

Welcome to the CRISPR Baby World—Here’s What You Should Know

Last week, the gene editing world was hit by news the equivalent of a nuclear bomb. In a video on YouTube, Dr. Jiankui He at Southern University of Science and Technology in China revealed that...

Would a Universal Genetic Database Be a Crime-Solving Wonder, Or an Orwellian Nightmare?

The privacy of our DNA is being increasingly eroded, a phenomenon highlighted by the rash of criminal cases recently solved using publicly-accessible genomic data. Now researchers have suggested, counter-intuitively, that surrendering our genetic information...

Designer Babies, and Their Babies: How AI and Genomics Will Impact Reproduction

As if stand-alone technologies weren’t advancing fast enough, we’re in age where we must study the intersection points of these technologies. How is what’s happening in robotics influenced by what’s happening in 3D printing?...

If We Made Life in a Lab, Would We Understand It Differently?

What is life? For much of the 20th century, this question did not particularly concern biologists. Life is a term for poets, not scientists, argued the synthetic biologist Andrew Ellington in 2008, who began...

CAR-T May Be a Silver Bullet Against Cancer—and Here’s What Else It Can Do

CAR-T is the super-soldier serum of cell therapy: you pluck out an immune cell soldier, inject it with a dose of new genes, and send the enhanced cell back into the host body—bam! Suddenly...

New DNA Synthesis Method Could Soon Build a Genome in a Day

Synthetic biologists are the computer programmers of biology. Their code? DNA. The whole enterprise sounds fantastical: you insert new snippets of DNA code—in the form of a chain of A, T, C, G letters—into an...

Three Huge Ways Tech Is Overhauling Healthcare

We are on the brink of a revolution in healthcare. AI is making the drug discovery process >100X faster and cheaper, and 90 percent more likely to succeed in clinical trials. Mobile health is...

What Makes People Distrust Science? Surprisingly, Not Politics

Today, there is a crisis of trust in science. Many people—including politicians and, yes, even presidents—publicly express doubts about the validity of scientific findings. Meanwhile, scientific institutions and journals express their concerns about the...

Pioneering Stem Cell Trial Seeks to Cure Babies Before Birth

Even before she was born, Elianna Constantino had already cheated death. Elianna has a rare inherited blood disorder called alpha thalassemia major, which prevents her red blood cells from forming properly. The disease, which has...

The Epic Project to Record the DNA of All Life on Earth

Advances in biotechnology over the past decade have brought rapid progress in the fields of medicine, food, ecology, and neuroscience, among others. With this progress comes ambition for even more progress—realizing we’re capable of, say,...

Living Neanderthal ‘Mini-Brains’ May Reveal What Makes Our Brains Special

He isolated DNA from Egyptian mummies. He discovered the Denisovans, an extinct ancient human species, by sequencing DNA from a tiny bone fragment. He led a massive study that reconstructed the Neanderthal genome—and found...

Scientists Kick Off Synthetic Biology Project to Make Virus-Resistant Super Cells

Recently, roughly 200 eminent scientists assembled in Boston. Their agenda? Creating “superhero” human cells impervious to all viral attacks and possibly other killers—radiation, freezing, aging, or even cancer. The trick isn’t super-soldier serum. Instead, the...

This New Startup Will Use CRISPR as a Search Engine to Hunt Down Diseases

By now, you’ve heard of CRISPR—the bacterial self-defense mechanism that can be used to modify the genome. From “biohackers” building the hype by injecting themselves with CRISPR—and later regretting it—to the more measured, successful...

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