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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.

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...

CRISPR-on-a-Chip For Diagnosing Cancer May Soon Be a Thing

Oh CRISPR, how you’ve grown. From an obscure part of the bacterial immune defense system, you’re now on track to cure genetic diseases, thwart superbugs, boost global food production, and wipe out disease-carrying pests. And...

A Data Storage Revolution? DNA Can Store Near Limitless Data in Almost Zero Space

In the age of big data, we are quickly producing far more digital information than we can possibly store. Last year, $20 billion was spent on new data centers in the US alone, doubling the...

Would Standing on the First Butterfly Really Change the History of Evolution?

Martha Jones: It’s like in those films: if you step on a butterfly, you change the future of the human race. The Doctor: Then don’t step on any butterflies. What have butterflies ever done to...

Not Just Gene Editing—CRISPR Toolkit Expands With Trio of New Tricks

CRISPR, the superhero of gene editing, just got a little more super. In a trio of studies released last week in Science, leading CRISPR labs around the world unveiled some ultra-creative additions to the technique,...

New CRISPR Method Takes on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

The advance of CRISPR gene editing technology, which uses an RNA strand to guide an enzyme called Cas9 to cut a specific portion of DNA, has raised concerns and sparked debate as people envision...

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...

If We Could Engineer Animals to Be as Smart as Humans—Should We?

Advances in neural implants and genetic engineering suggest that in the not-too-distant future we may be able to boost human intelligence. If that’s true, could we—and should we—bring our animal cousins along for 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...

New Research Suggests Immunity to CRISPR Gene Editing Poses a Challenge

CRISPR-Cas9 is the talk of the town in biotechnology. There is a huge amount of public interest in the possibilities provided by this new genome editing technology, and many are hoping CRISPR could eventually...

9 Ways You Can Use Your Devices for Advanced Scientific Research

Want to help solve world problems like finding a cure for cancer? Looking to make a global impact in 2018 with minimal effort on your part? It’s relatively easy to use your devices for...
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How Neuroscience Is Beginning to Rewire the Brain From the Inside Out

In an interview at Exponential Medicine in San Diego, Singularity University faculty and speaker Dr. Divya Chander takes a look at how emerging technologies are letting us peer inside the human brain like never before. As an anesthesiologist...

The Enormous Promise and Peril of Bioengineering’s Pandora’s Box

We’re standing on the threshold of extraordinary capability in synthetic biology. CRISPR-Cas9, the genome editing technique discovered in 2014, is at the forefront of this newfound potential for innovation. These advancements provide an opportunity...

These Bacteria Use New DNA Bases to Make a Protein Not Found in Nature

All of nature’s bewildering complexity can be reduced to a four letter code—DNA’s four bases: A, T, C, and G. But now scientists have shown the language at the heart of life is not...

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...
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You’ve Heard All About CRISPR Gene Editing—Here’s How It Works

Gene editing is in the news a lot these days, but what is it exactly? Gene editing is the process of making precise and permanent changes to living things at the level of DNA,...
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Should We Edit Human Genes? What You Need to Know

There’s a difference between editing genes in a person’s somatic cells and germline cells. Editing somatic cells, which are differentiated (e.g., skin cells) and non-reproductive, impacts them alone. In contrast, editing germline DNA means changes...

FDA Breaks New Ground With First Approved Gene Therapy for Cancer

When oncologist Dr. Carl June heard the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to bring the first gene therapy to market in the US, he pinched himself, hard. “It was so improbable that this would ever...

Controversial Study Predicts What People Look Like From Their DNA

As the cost of sequencing DNA goes down more and more, people's genome data is being collected for research and personalized medicine. This data is often anonymized by decoupling it from other identifying information,...
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Do We Have the Right to Edit the Genes of an Entire Species?

Scientists can now more cheaply and efficiently edit animal and human DNA using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing system. But should we edit species, and if so, to what extent? An interesting way to consider this question...
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Tech-X-Planations | Introducing a New Original Weekly Video Series

We’ve all name-dropped a new technology that sounds awesome—like CRISPR/Cas9—without really knowing the basics. This is why we’ve created Tech-x-planations, Singularity Hub’s new weekly video series that explores fundamental ideas in science, technology, and the...

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