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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Human Genetic Engineering
Posted: August 14, 2017 at 11:58 am
Names of a lot of scientists come to notice whenever there are talks about Human Genetic Engineering Facts. Two scientists namely Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer discovered a technique for cloning using DNA. These two have contributed a lot in Human Genetic Engineering studies. This stage was the discovery of science for historians. It was also the beginning of advanced sciences.
Two other popular scientists involved in studying Human Genetic Engineering Facts were Cohen and Boyer. They made proper use of enzymes with the purpose of cutting bacteria plasmid in slices.
A different DNA strand was required for placing these slices. DNA strands can be obtained from that particular bacteria plasmid. Cohen and Boyer, together with their efforts, proved that it is quite possible to manipulate or mix the genes. DNA mapping has made it easier for the scientists to do the genes manipulation.
Human Genetic Engineering Facts have emerged a lot in this area of work. With the emergence of these facts it became possible for scientists to develop insulin that can be used in the treatment of patients that suffer from diabetes. The technique can also be used for creating insulin that can be given to patients suffering from ailments in their kidney.
The invention of genetic therapy also involves the use of this technique. White blood cells present in humans can be altered genetically. This is the situation in people that have defects in the immune system. Altered blood cells can easily be reinserted for improvements in the immune system.
Agricultural benefits of Human Genetic Engineering
Crops can be modified with the help of genetic engineering. This is an important advantage or factor contributing in the vast scope of Human Genetic Engineering Facts . Gene therapy will alter or change the genes, and this will keep the vegetable and fruits resistant from any kind of disease. Human Genetic Engineering Facts have inspired many scientists. Farmers have also been impressed with the effect that it lays on the growth of fruits and vegetables. Many additional benefits are there for using gene therapy in agricultural activities. It will increase the production by making minimum investment.
Many otherHuman Genetic Engineering Facts are there that can leave positive impact on agricultural development. This can be done in order to fulfill the demand of food items. It will also result in reducing the use of insecticides, and fertilizers at the same time convenient. All these factors will contribute together for reducing the amount of pollution caused from the fertilizers. It will also increase the level of health among people.
Human Genetic Engineering Facts can also lead to generate breeds that will bring diversity among the animals that have been modified genetically. It will keep animals away from any kind of danger. Gene therapy will increase the strength of the animals to a great extent. This will also enable them to cope with the ever changing environment. Animals that have genetically altered genes will stay away from deadly diseases.
Human Genetic Engineering Facts
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Human Genetic Engineering Facts
Posted: August 6, 2017 at 2:55 am
Los Angeles Times (TNS)
The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Friday, Aug. 4:
In a process that can be likened to the creation of GMO crops, scientists have edited genes in human embryos in order to eliminate a mutation that causes thickening of the heart wall. The embryos were created solely for the scientists study and will not be implanted. Nonetheless, the research offers hope that in years ahead, science could prevent many serious genetic diseases at the stage in which people are a microscopic cluster of cells in a petri dish. Whats more, because those edited genes would be carried forth into new generations, the disease might eventually be eliminated altogether.
Is this a glorious new frontier or a troubling situation? Unequivocally, the answer is yes to both.
The research results by an international team of U.S., Chinese and South Korean scientists were enormously exciting medically. Beyond the technical achievement involved, the teams work hastened the arrival of a revolutionary form of treatment: removing genes that can lead inexorably to suffering and premature death.
Public policy and the field of bioethics have not caught up with the science of genetic intervention.
But there is also a great deal we still dont know about how minor issues might become major ones as people pass on edited DNA to their offspring, and as people who have had some genes altered reproduce with people who have had other genes altered. Weve seen how selectively breeding to produce one trait can unexpectedly produce other, less desirable outcomes. Remember how growers were able to create tomatoes that were more uniformly red, but in the process, they turned off the gene that gave tomatoes flavor?
Another major issue is the ethics of adjusting humans genetically to fit a favored outcome. Today its heritable disease, but what might be seen as undesirable traits in the future that people might want to eliminate? Short stature? Introverted personality? Klutziness?
To be sure, its not as though everyone is likely to line up for gene-edited offspring rather than just having babies, at least for the foreseeable future. The procedure can be performed only on in vitro embryos and requires precision timing.
But even with this early study, problematic issues already are evident. Gene editing isnt the only method to protect against certain hereditary conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which was edited out in this study. Children stand a 50 percent chance of inheriting the condition; if a couple produces several embryos through in vitro fertilization, half of those already would theoretically be free of the mutation, and those are the ones that would be selected for implantation. Gene editing made the process more efficient, but it did not offer hope where there was none, Jennifer Doudna, a molecular and cell biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, observed.
In fact, six months ago, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommended that scientists involved in germline editing that is, making changes that would be passed down to future generations should limit their work to diseases for which there are no other reasonable treatments. The most recent embryo study began before that recommendation was delivered.
Thats emblematic of the real problem: Public policy and the field of bioethics have not caught up with the science of genetic intervention. Yes, federal money cant be spent on research involving human embryos even when they are still at the stage of a clump of undifferentiated cells. FDA approval would be needed for any actual human therapies, which would be years off.
Still, the technology is advancing more rapidly than societys discussions about human genetic engineering, the specter of eugenics and even the seemingly mundane topics of who will own the patents on customized genes and who will have access to gene editing once it is approved.
The answers arent easy, but the discussions have to take place and decisions need to be made, probably through an international convention that includes governments, researchers, physicians and consumer advocates. Taking the research to the next level should mean experimentation with animals rather than humans. They should then be followed for generations to see whether unexpected health issues arise. Gene editing on humans should be introduced one step at a time, starting with the most disastrous diseases and conditions that cannot be tackled in any other way, then tracked long term to ensure safety.
We all would love to eliminate disabling deformities, painful conditions that shorten lives or genetic mutations that predispose us to various fatal diseases. Although science has a long way to go before such miracles are achieved, research is moving fast. Its paramount that we get human gene editing right rather than just getting it soon.
)2017 Los Angeles Times
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Published Aug. 5, 2017, midnight
Posted: July 19, 2017 at 3:55 am
The dogs, which are test tube bred in a lab, have twice the muscle mass of their natural counterparts and are considerably stronger and faster.
The canine genome has been especially difficult to engineer and replicate but its close similarity to the human genome means it has long been the prize of geneticists.
Now the Chinese success has led to fears the same technology could be used to create super-humans.
David King, director of Human Genetics Alert (HGA), voiced his fears over what is widely viewed as the first step on s slippery slope.
He told the Express.co.uk: Its true that the more and more animals that are genetically engineered using these techniques brings us closer to the possibility of genetic engineering of humans.
Dogs are as a species, in respect of cloning are very difficult, and even more difficult to clone human beings.
Theres no medical case for it, the scientists are interested in being the first person in the world to create a genetically engineer child.
Theyre interested in science and the technology and their careers. They will continue pushing the regulations for it.
That does set us on the road to eugenics. I am very concerned with what Im seeing.
An army of super-humans has been a staple of science fiction and superhero comics for decades but the super-dog technology brings it closer to reality.
The Chinese researchers first self-bred cloned dog was named Little Long Long.
The beagle puppy, one of 27, was genetically engineered by deleting a gene called myostatin, giving it double the muscle mass of a normal beagle.
The advance genetic editing technology has been touted as a breakthrough which could herald the dawn of superbreeds, which could be stronger, faster, better at running and hunting.
The dogs could potentially be deployed to frontline service to assist police officers, scientists said.
Dr Lai Liangxue, researcher at Guangzhou institute of biological medicine and health, said: “This is a breakthrough, marking China as only the second country in the world to independently master dog-somatic clone technology, after South Korea.”
Some 65 embryos were edited, and from that 27 were born, with Little Long Long the only one who was created without the myostatin gene. Myostatin is known to control muscle size in humans.
Dogs are one of the hardest animals to clone, with only South Korea thought to have successfully created a clone in the past.
As well as the enhancements, researchers said in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology some dogs will be bred with DNA mutations in a bid to help medical research, including some which mimic Parkinsons.
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Dr Lai added: “The goal of the research is to explore an approach to the generation of the new disease dog models for biomedical research.
“Dogs are very close to humans in terms of metabolic, physiological and anatomical characteristics.”
But some have criticised the experiments, citing ethical concerns.
Mr King continued: This is the way its likely to proceed if the law is changed, first of all they will use it for medical purposes, most likely to treat a genetic condition.
I am very concerned with what Im seeing
In terms of genetic engineering we will be seeing this more and more.
There are also fears that, as well as medical, tinkering with genetics could also lead to a rise in designer or novelty pets.
Dr Lai said his team have no intentions to breed the bulked up beagles as pets.
But Mr King also voiced fears that this breakthrough, coupled with existing cases of altering human embryos, could lead to further calls for designer babies.
The director of HGA, and independent body, claimed there are multiple examples of eugenics going on already, citing women who are intelligent and beautiful are paid more for their eggs in the US.
Mr King said: Its not scaremongering.
Im seeing the beginning of a campaign within the scientific community to legalise human genetic engineering.
Weve seen how it happened with the thee-parent embryo.
I can see the same thing building up with genetic engineering.
There are strict laws around cloning, but one example of a case in the UK is Dolly the sheep.
Born in 1996, she died aged six in 2003, half the normal life span of a Finn Dorset sheep.
And recently, an artificial womb for premature babies was tested on lambs, and showed significant success.
Lambs born at the equivalent of 23 weeks were placed inside the fake womb which contained fluid mimicking that found in an amniotic sac.
They remained inside for 28 days, and continued to develop, even growing white fleeces.
Guo Longpeng, the China press officer for the Asia division of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said: “Cloning is unethical.
“Like any other laboratory animal, these animals are caged and manipulated in order to provide a lucrative bottom line.”
Posted: July 14, 2017 at 11:58 pm
A business owner, a school superintendent and a lawyer walk into a bar . Sounds like the beginning of a lame joke, right? Well, it was definitely a joke even worse than the kind of joke that might illicit an eye roll from spouse or friends. Ninety-two years ago this week, one of the greatest legal farces in history commenced in the small town of Dayton, Tenn. It all started at a drug store lunch counter as many things do in a small town when a manager at a local company met with the school superintendent and a local attorney. The story goes that the businessman, George Rappleyea of the Cumberland Coal and Iron Company, hatched a plan designed to bring much needed publicity to Dayton. So, you must wondering, what kind of publicity campaign did they devise? They, of course, decided to bring suit against a 24-year-old substitute teacher named John T. Scopes, for unwittingly teaching evolution in science class.
Pit fundamentalist Christians against modernist ones. Place science and the Bible itself on trial. Drive a wedge between conservative people of faith and the scientific community. Create a cloud of doubt and fear about scientific claims, and instead of encouraging people to study and wrestle with the claims themselves, encourage a spirit of bitter resentment and dismissal. Create a media driven campaign to discredit scientists, thereby discrediting science in general. Make sure all this is started and largely funded by a leader in the fossil fuels industry. Make sure the ACLU (among others) is on the side of the liberal, anti-God movement.
Now, instead of the Scopes Monkey Trial, think global warming and climate change. Its the same playbook, folks. As people of faith we should be able to recognize and name a farce when we see one, and stand up for truth in the face of propaganda meant to drive a wedge between good people of faith. Care for creation may well be the most pressing ethical and theological issue of our time, and the church cannot allow disinformation and indoctrination to rule the day.
We live in a time of seemingly unprecedented political division, and many organizations and movements decry the changes in our culture, and the progress we are making. Harry Emerson Fosdick said in his famous sermon, Shall the Fundamentalists Win, The new knowledge and the old faith cannot be left antagonistic or even disparate, as though a man on Saturday could use one set of regulative ideas for his life and on Sunday could change gears to another altogether. We must be able to think our modern life clear through in Christian terms, and to do that we also must be able to think our Christian faith clear through in modern terms. Think that sounds tough in modern times? How about postmodern times?
Many of the same challenges that existed in the last century persist today. Pastors in churches across the country face the challenge of placing faith in the contemporary context a context marked by sweeping and rapid change. One peer-reviewed article I recently read cites that the only cross-segment of American society that has grown in its distrust of science since the late 1970s is Protestant Evangelicals. Let that sink in for a minute. Think about how that fact impacts our political climate. Think about how that fact impacts our planetary climate. Simply astounding.
Interesting, is it not, that the rise of evangelical distrust in science itself coincides with the rise of the so-called Moral Majority and the culture wars of the 1980s and 90s?
Its been nearly a hundred years since The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, but for many, science (or the Bible depending on your perspective) remain on trial. As Christians, we (perhaps) still struggle to speak of faith and science in ways that dont alienate or divide people in our churches. In 1925, the conversation was about the future of education and about the nature of religion, focusing largely on the history of humanity. Today the conversation between science and faith revolves around the future of the planet, the ethics of human genetic engineering, human sexuality, and the nature of religion itself, focusing largely on the future of humanity.
The conversations between science and faith will never go away. As scientific knowledge exponentially proliferates at unprecedented rates, those of us in faith communities need to strongly consider how we are called to respond to the discoveries and claims of the scientific community. I fear many are still living in 1925.
Related story:Millennials not OK with conventional science vs. religion debates, experts say
Related opinion:Genius hesitates, both in science and religion | Scott Dickison
OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.
Posted: June 17, 2017 at 1:53 pm
Paul Levine, a resident of West Tisbury, former professor at Harvard, and visiting professor at Stanford University, writes occasionally about scientific research taking place today, along with profiles of the Islands scientists and their work and facts of scientific note on the Island. This week, he follows up on his gene-editing column from six weeks ago, which described the genetics research that has led to CRISPR, which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. If youre wondering what that is, read on.
In this, the second column on the subject of gene editing, imagine a world in which many human genetic disorders have been eliminated, no children are born with cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia, or other genetic disorders. Welcome to the world of CRISPR, an acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats of the DNA of a gene. CRISPR can locate a defective gene and, along with an enzyme called Cas9, can, like a pair of scissors, snip out the unwanted gene and suture a desirable gene in its place. It is a technique of genetic editing that is more precise, efficient, and affordable than anything that has come before. What I describe below is specific to the Vineyard (the elimination of Lyme disease) and relevant to society as a whole for the potential for great good, but also for possible misuse use of the technology, which has raised questions of ethics and safety.
CRISPR-Cas9 as a tool for genetic editing has a history that goes back to a 2011 scientific conference at which microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, now the director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, met Jennifer Doudna, professor of chemistry and molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. They talked about CRISPR-Cas9, and what follows is the story of one of the most significant achievements in genetics since the discovery of the structure and function of DNA. It is a story that involves brilliant scientists, competition, big egos, patent disputes, and the possibility of a Nobel Prize, not to mention the immense financial gain by biotech, agribusiness, and pharmaceutical companies.
Prior to todays application of CRISPR to edit genes, it was known that it was a means by which bacteria protected themselves from infection by viruses by recognizing and binding to viral DNA and destroying it with enzymes. Charpentier and Doudna wondered whether the technique could be applied to other things than the detection and destruction of viral DNA. If it could, it might lead to a way to snip out bad genes and possibly replace them with good ones. They began a collaborative research project with bacteria, and developed a technique for cutting out and replacing bacterial genes with CRISPR and an enzyme, Cas9. In other words, it was now possible to edit the bacterial genome by cutting and pasting genes. Doudna and Charpentier published their research in the journal Science in 2012. Aware of the great potential that the ability to edit genomes presented, the University of California patented their discovery.
At about the same time, Feng Zhang at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was working with Cas9, and discovered that CRISPR-Cas9 could also be applied to edit the genes of animals and plants. His discovery was published a few months after the publication of the work of Doudna and Charpentier.
The Broad Institute applied for and received a patent based on the results of Zhangs research. However, prior to their filing, the University of California, Berkeley, had filed for and received a patent based on Doudnas and Charpentiers research.
In a patent dispute, it was ruled that the Broad Institutes patent took precedent over the University of California patent because it applies to animal and plant cells. The University of California, Berkeley, has asserted that although their patent involves bacteria, it includes all forms of life.
Unfortunately, a consequence of the dispute is the enmity that has developed between some of the parties involved.
It was not long before life scientists throughout the world began to develop the technique in order to advance progress in human genetic engineering to cure some of the 6,000 human genetic disorders.
With respect to applications of CRISPR-Cas9 to edit human genes, research is underway to use it to control insect- and spider-borne disease; for example, mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite and the viruses that cause dengue, West Nile, and Zika fever. The object of the research is to produce sterile female mosquitoes by using CRISPR-Cas9 to edit out the genes required for their fertility, and distribute the sterile females in areas around the world where mosquito-borne diseases occur. This approach has been met with some success at the laboratory level.
Another research effort which might be familiar to you is to eliminate Lyme disease by distributing white-footed mice that have been manipulated with gene-editing techniques to effectively be immune to the bacteria which causes Lyme, all using CRISPR-Cas9. This would break the transmission cycle of the bacteria (see MV Times, Scientist proposes genetic attack on M.V. ticks, July 20, 2016).
I havent mentioned possible commercial applications of CRISPR-Cas9, and the great profits to be made by Monsanto and other agribusiness companies by the production of genetically modified plants and domestic animals. The technology is also appealing to Big Pharma. Its worth looking at the highly controversial and ethical questions that accompany the use of CRISPR-Cas9. In contrast with noninheritable somatic cell human gene editing described above, there is another technique called germ line gene editing, which makes gene changes at the level of human eggs, sperm, and embryos that would be heritable. Experiments on human embryos have been carried out by scientists in China and the U.K. that have raised concern that CRISPR-Cas9 could lead to the production of designer babies parents choosing the traits they want their children to have. Designer babies are a vast topic, too vast to bring up here, but there is an excellent discussion of the subject in Roger Gosdens The Brave New World of Reproductive Technology.
Jennifer Doudna, at U.C. Berkeley, and Feng Zhang at MIT, the principal developers and promoters of gene editing, appear to be at odds over the ethical questions surrounding the technology. Doudna is concerned with the ethics and the publics perception of CRISPR-Cas9, but Zhang appears less so, and prefers to drive the research to cure genetic disorders, putting aside the possibility of the production of designer babies.
If you want to explore CRISPR-Cas9 and come to an opinion regarding one of the most significant developments in genetics in this century, I urge you to read Robert Kolkers 2016 article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, How Jennifer Doudnas Gene Editing Technique Will Change the World. It can be found at bit.ly/CRISPRdoudna. Listen to Doudnas TED Talk here: bit.ly/TEDdoudna.
Finally, I should mention that a two-act play named Gene Play, about the story of recDNA and CRISPR-Cas9, will be read by a cast of actors at the Vineyard Playhouse on June 19.
Posted: June 16, 2017 at 2:58 pm
On A Friday Forum earlier this year, Illinois U.S. Representatives Bill Foster and Randy Hultgren talked about their hopes and concerns for the new Congress as it began its work. For this week’s Friday Forum,WNIJ’s Guy Stephens asked the two for an update on how things are going in Congress.
Randy Hultgren and Bill Foster have both served several terms in the U.S. House. Hultgren, a Republican considered one of the most conservative members of Congress, took the old 14th District from Foster in 2010. When new lines were drawn in 2012, Hultgren won election in the new 14th, while Foster, who calls himself a centrist Democrat, won the seat in the new 11th District. Both won re-election last year.
Its been a tumultuous several months in Washington, but Hultgren felt that Congress, at least, has earned a fairly good grade. He gave it a B. Why?
“Theres some really good things happening,” he said, but it could be better — with some help.
“We need to be doing our work, certainly, in the House, but also need the Senate to step up and do some of the important things. Theyve been very focused early on in this session on appointments and I know that took a lot of time.
Hultgren based his positive assessment, in part, on Congresss productivity. Just look at the numbers through this week, he said. Theres more going on than youd guess from the headlines. He finds that encouraging.
Weve passed 158 bills through the House, and thats the highest, really, in recent history,” he said. “The average at this point would be right around a little over 91 bills, and 37 of them have actually gone on to become law, through the Senate and signed by the President. So in spite of all of the busy-ness and noise and challenges and bumps, were still getting our work done. Were still moving forward on some important issues.
But Hultgren said he thinks there is a limited window of opportunity to pursue those big issues, and the challenge is for the White House and Congress to stay focused. Otherwise, the people may give his party a much lower grade than his in the 2018 elections.
Foster had a very different view. He didnt disagree that a lot has been done. Whether thats a positive, he said, it depends.
Well,” he said,”youd have different grades in different subjects. For instance, in health care, I would give Congress a D-.
Foster said thats because he thinks Republicans should have gone in another direction than they did with the GOP health care bill, which he said was often referred to during the debate by opponents as a “wealthcare bill.”
“The starting point and the ending point of that was a tax cut for the wealthy of most of a trillion dollars,” he said. “And when thats your starting point, you then have to balance the books. You have to take away most of a trillion dollars of healthcare from someone in the United States.
Foster said likewise, the effort to repeal and replace the financial reform legislation known as Dodd-Frank, which passed on a party-line vote, has provisions that could have dire consequences for both individuals and the economy.
Foster said those concerns also apply to proposals on tax reform and infrastructure spending, which he says have so far been disappointing, but where there remains the possibility of bipartisan action.
Hultgren emphasized that most of the issues and bills that he and his colleagues are working on arent the big polarizing ones like health care or tax reform. But theyre still important. He listed his service on the financial services committee, as co-chairman of the Tom LantosHuman Rights Commission that deals with problems such as religious persecution and human trafficking, work on improving access to Perkins Loans that provide individuals money for education, a bill to protect veterans whose credit has been adversely affected by reimbursement delays when using the Veterans Choice Program, and work to strengthen the Federal Home Loan Bank.
Hultgren said those efforts are often — in fact, mostly — bipartisan. Foster, too, said it has been possible to work across the aisle on some things. One he pointed to thats transcended party politics is the opioid crisis. He said the problem is widespread and has, on average, affected Republican districts harder than Democratic ones.
“Its something where, if youre going to do some good, you have to spend money,” he said. “And so, even people who believe they were elected to cut the size of government are often willing to spend some amount of taxpayer money on things like dealing with the heroin epidemic.
Foster said that was evident in the bipartisan pushback that reversed proposed cuts to addiction programs in the administrations preliminary budget.
He said progress also can happen on things that dont seem so dire in fact, maybe just the opposite.
Ive often found its easier to get bipartisan agreement when youre talking about the long-distant future,” he said.”If youre talking about next years budget, it immediately gets very partisan.”
He cites as an example human genetic engineering — think designer babies –which seems the stuff of science fiction, but which Foster said is closer to being a reality than you think. He was able to get the chairman of his committee, a Republican with whom he says he rarely agrees, to arrange a hearing on the topic.
Although hes in the majority, Hultgren said he too realizes that getting a bill not just through the House but the Senate as well and signed into law means reaching out to the other side. He said he often strives to do so, even as he tries to move quickly on his own and his partys agenda.
But Foster remains concerned about how that process happens in the House these days. He said hed like to return to how things used to work in Congress — whats known as regular order. He explained by giving as an example what used to happen to an appropriations bill.
It would come up under whats called an open rule, where any member of Congress would get to propose an amendment,” he said. “We couldnt just arbitrarily add large amounts of money to a program, but we could, for example, move money from one bucket to another bucket within the same bill.”
This, Foster said, was a very positive way for members of both parties to get involved in coming to a better place, and he thought it was a very healthy thing for the institution.
“But,” he said, “it is not loved by those who are in charge of the U.S. House. They want — them and their staff — to write just write all the final deals.
As a result, he said, members of Congress often are asked only for an up-or-down vote on big omnibus bills put before them.
On top of that, Foster said the turmoil — as well as the policies — of the Trump Administration has him worried and complicates efforts in Congress to do something constructive for the country. But he said hell continue to do his bit to affect change for the better.
Hultgren doesnt necessarily disagree about the effects of the turmoil on the process. Still, he said, in spite of that, he reminds people once again that its not all partisan battling and stalemate in Washington.
I would say eighty percent of the things we work on or more are absolutely bipartisan things,” he said. “So, well continue to get things done and continue to struggle and find ways to get things done on the other twenty percent or so that we absolutely do disagree on.
But he thinks that, for more of that to happen, both representatives including him — and their constituents need to work harder at being well-informed, to recognize other points of view, and not take every bit of information that comes their way from a particular source as gospel truth.
To listen to not just Fox News, but to tune in to MSNBC once in a while, or CNN, or vice versa,” he said. “Or to still get a newspaper and look through that, or if you can get some different websites where you can get some information.”
He adds that public radio continues to be a great place to hear a range of perspectives and for going a little bit more in depth on issues than, say, the cable news shows.
If everyone did that, he said, then the system and Congress would have a better chance to work more like it should.
Read the rest here:
Two Representatives Offer A Look At How Congress Is Doing – WNIJ and WNIU
Posted: June 12, 2017 at 7:53 pm
Anime fans in the U.S. who grew up watching Gundam Wing on Cartoon Networks Toonami block will love the darker, more mature take on the mecha subgenre of anime theyll find with Netflixs Knights of Sidonia.
Whereas series like Power Rangers, Voltron, and various Gundam iterations are lighthearted in their tone and small in their stakes, Knights of Sidonia is a dark post-apocalyptic story of mecha vs. kaiju that feels an awful lot like Battlestar Galactica meets Pacific Rim and its not afraid to depict some truly grisly deaths.
In Knights of Sidonia, the year is 3394 and the half-million remaining humans live aboard a massive arc named Sidonia as it hurdles through space. As the series begins, Sidonia has already spent 1,000 years fleeing from the gauna, the monstrous shapeshifting alien race that destroyed Earth. A select few Knights pilot Gardes, Sidonias name for giant mechs.
The protagonist Nagate Tanikaze grew up hidden underground with his grandfather, training daily in a Garde simulation. He emerges from hiding to join a society he never knew, and he eventually becomes one of humanitys greatest defenders. Its a job he trained his entire life for, and through his eyes, the viewer slowly learns truly how desperate existence is on Sidonia.
Special humans piloting giant mecha is a tried-and-true premise for an anime that could very easily be a bore here, but rather than just throw mecha pilots into an endless war with flashy fight scenes, Knights of Sidonia deftly explores the practical implications of its setting.
What would humanity really look like after a thousand years aboard a massive space arc? What technologies or innovations would be invented for the sake of survival? How dangerous and gritty would their lives be? Knights of Sidonia has a lot to say about these questions and so much more.
Much like the recently released Blame! anime film, Knights of Sidonia is adapted from a manga by Tsutomu Nihei and produced by Polygon Pictures. Both anime feature a very similar dystopian sci-fi design aesthetic with 3D character animations (at times its even implied that both series exists in the same universe). Whereas many sci-fi anime can come across colorful and refined, both these series make a point of presenting worlds with a uniquely weathered look that conveys how grim and desperate these dystopias really are.
Sure, both Blame! and Knights of Sidonia present high-tech settings in the worlds of tomorrow, but after millennia, even our future could become the distant past. High-tech gadgets are transformed into ancient relics by the passage of time. Even Sidonia itself is of brutish, practical design, built right into a massive asteroid.
In Sidonias society, innovations like human cloning, asexual reproduction, and human genetic engineering are commonplace, along with an adaptation that allows most humans to gain nutrients via photosynthesis rather than actually eating. And one of the shows most interesting characters is Izana Shinatose, who is actually a nonbinary third gender. She has androgynous features and, like all third genders, her body can shift into either male or female when she finds a mate.
These adaptations do not arise out of creative or inspired feats of innovation; they arise out of necessity in a resource-starved and highly volatile existence. Much of it is very cool, but as a whole the series does a great job of communicating how bleak life is on Sidonia.
Starvation might be a concern, but the real threat comes from the gauna, which are faceless, emotionless, formless blobs that are nearly impossible to kill. Because theyre so grotesquely inhuman, theyre that much more of an absolute terror.
Not only are the fight scenes in Knights of Sidonia truly horrifying even with Gardes, humanity is hopelessly outmatched and the frequent deaths are truly gruesome but the despair permeates throughout and beyond the militarized portion of society.
Humanity is totally screwed. If you dont die from a gauna attack of some kind, then youll probably just die of starvation at some point. In this, Knights of Sidonia is a lot like Attack on Titan in space.
Knights of Sidonia is easily one of the best anime available on Netflix right now, and you cant watch it anywhere else. Sure, its overwhelmingly dark and gritty, but at least theres a fun and hilariously cute momma bear that takes care of Nagate:
Because what would an anime be without some bizarre comic relief?
See the article here:
‘Knights of Sidonia’ is the Pinnacle of Gritty Mecha Anime – Inverse
Posted: June 5, 2017 at 7:05 am
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.
The chasm between rich and poor in the world has become so extreme it is frequently difficult to grasp. The eight richest men in the world now own as much as the entire bottom half of the worlds population. The wealthy OECD countries, representing less than 20% of the global population, consume 86% of the worlds goods and services, while the poorest 20% consume only 1.3%. These numbers translate into the shameful reality that a billion people go hungry every day and another billion remain chronically malnourished.
Nevertheless, you wont hear much talk about these numbers in techno-optimist circles that breathlessly discuss the tantalizing possibilities of human enhancement. When futurists blithely envision the possibilities for human enhancement, they ignore the fact that billions of people are barely surviving. and will have no realistic chance of gaining access to these advances. In fact, spend enough time on these topics and youre liable to forget that the majority of human beings are struggling to make ends meet and barely able to think about the next month, never mind decades ahead.
In certain affluent echelons of the developed world, the technological promise of an enhanced human lifestyle exerts a powerful attraction. Leading Silicon Valley companies are funding startups intent on discovering how to disrupt the aging process and allow people to achieve something close to immortality. Breakthroughs in neural implant technology raise the possibility of people being able to communicate with their computer and each other by thought alone in the near future.
Meanwhile, advances in genetic engineering offer the possibility that, within a few decades, the gulf between rich and poor might extend beyond economics and technology to become part of our biological makeup. Scientists are working on identifying sets of genes that correlate with better intelligence, physical fitness, health, and longevity. Once they do so, affluent parents will not forego the advantages that genetic engineering could offer their offspring. At first, new generations will appear much like the older ones, only somewhat more intelligent, healthier, and longer lived. Before too long, however, we will see a new default perception of what constitutes a human being in the affluent world.
Gregory Stock, an advocate of human genetic engineering, predicts we will soon see humans as divergent as poodles and Great Danes. Hes not alone in this view. Physicist Freeman Dyson has warned that engineering the human germline could cause a splitting of humanity into hereditary castes, while biologist Lee Silver sees what he calls GenRich and naturals ultimately splitting into entirely separate species, with no ability to cross-breed, and with as much romantic interest in each other as a current human would have for a chimpanzee.
Eventually, the affluent and the dispossessed will become effectively, if not literally two separate species. One species, genetically and technologically enhanced, exploring entirely new ways of being human; the other species, genetically akin to us, left behind to struggle in a world reeling from resource exploitation and environmental degradation. Its a future scenario I refer to as Technosplit.
Cameron and Jude, circa 2050
Based on the current rate of converging technical advances, its reasonable to expect, by 2050, a young affluent urban couple lets call them Cameron and Jude to be planning their genetically optimized offspring while communicating their thoughts and feelings to each other in an enhanced form using neural implants.
Cameron and Jude will be increasingly segregated from the fate of billions of others suffering the effects of climate change and resource scarcity. They are fortunate to be living in London, one of the affluent cities that by then, will have spent many billions of dollars to protect itself against the massive tidal surges that will be part of the new normal. As they enjoy their virtual reality tours of the few carefully engineered eco-zones still maintained as wilderness parks, what kind of world will the majority of humanity be experiencing on the other side of the Technosplit divide?
In future decades, as the affluent minority enjoy their neurally interconnected, genetically enhanced lives, cities in much of Africa and Southeast Asia, beleaguered by political instability, massive poverty and inadequate infrastructure, are likely to be reeling from the ravages of climate change. Reduction in river flows and falling groundwater tables will lead to widespread shortages of potable water. Flooding and landslides will disrupt electricity, sanitation and transportation systems, leading to rampant infectious disease.
Meanwhile, even as these cities strain to the breaking point, millions more refugees will be streaming in from the rural hinterland where the effects of climate change will be even more devastating. Wealthier residents will flee these urban disaster zones for safer abodes, either in the developed world or newly planned, segregated cities insulating them from the suffering of their compatriots, leaving the largest urban population centers without the capital reserves to fortify their structures against the threatening onslaught of even more severe climate disruption.
Along with the human catastrophe of failed states and the misery of billions in overwhelmed coastal megacities, the nonhuman world is heading inexorably to its own form of collapse. At current rates of destruction, natural ecosystems are likely to be reduced to islands of conservation habitats surrounded by vast agribusiness plantations and urban sprawl. Tropical rainforests will only survive as degraded, shrinking remnants in national parks.
Cameron and Jude might not, however, consider this situation as gravely as we do, given their reduced expectation of the natural world and their ability to experience vastly enhanced virtual reality immersions in wildlife reservations, enabling them to feel closer to nature in some ways than many of todays urban residents. Meanwhile, the affluent world will be doing its utmost to maintain an iron grip on access to vital global resources through its stranglehold on the worlds economic and military systems.
A betrayal of human values
At the current rate of increase in global economic disparity and technological innovation, this is what we must expect for humanitys future. But is it what people desire, even in the affluent world? Many techno-optimists, who argue that humanitys defining feature is the ability to reach beyond the limitations of our biology, believe so and celebrate the possibility of humanitys ultimate triumph: the unfettered progress of technologys conquest of nature.
But theres another view of humanity that permeates the modern world, one based on the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. These words, from the U.N.s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, represent a different kind of historical progressthe progress of humanitys moral scope, which has expanded beyond tribal groupings to encompass the entire human race. In this view, spelled out by the Declaration in 1948, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. According to this view, everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
From this viewpoint, the Technosplit scenario would be a fundamental betrayal of human values. It would be equivalent to the rich minority building a luxury lifeboat and deserting a rapidly sinking ship thats taking down those who cant afford the entry ticket.
On the other hand, might Cameron and Jude be more profoundly disturbed by the convulsions of their world than an equivalent couple in todays society? Could their enhanced connection with whats left of the natural world cause them to treasure it more keenly? Might the impending devastation from climate change drive them and their peers to demand a radical redirection in the worlds trajectory? Could their potentially enhanced neural ability to connect with the suffering of the impoverished billions cause them to press for a different world economic order that honors the intrinsic rights of each human being?
The attitude Cameron and Jude and millions of their peers take to their world will fundamentally affect the future trajectory the human race. And this attitude will depend ultimately on their core values, which will emerge to a large extent from ideas developed by our generation.
A scenario where humanity remains resilient requires something deeper than even the most compelling economic and technological solutions to our current crises, such as a global price on carbon and massive investment in green energy. These are undoubtedly necessary to avert disaster, but even if theyre fully effective, they wouldnt be sufficient to avoid the Technosplit scenario. That would require a more fundamental shift in the underlying values that drive our daily decisions, along with structural changes to the global economic system that is causing the inequalities wrenching humanity apart and leading us step-by-step towards Technosplit.
When a system is stretched to breaking point, something has to give. In the Technosplit scenario, our economic model remains resilient, but our shared humanity is transformed beyond recognition. In a scenario where our shared humanity remains intact, the economic system driving our current trajectory would need to be transformed, along with its underlying values: the pursuit of never-ending material growth and the glorification of humanitys conquest of nature. In its place, we need to nurture a new set of values, ones that emphasize growing the quality of life rather than material possessions, a profound sense of our shared humanity, and a commitment to the flourishing of the natural world.
As we progress further into this century, with its combination of glorious possibilities and existential threats, it is becoming clear that our generation, along with the next, is engaged in nothing less than a struggle over the future of what it means to be human.
This article was adapted from the final chapter of The Patterning Instinct: Trajectories to Our Future.
Breakthrough Regenerative Therapeutics Company Establishes Scientific Advisory Board – PR Newswire (press release)
Posted: May 4, 2017 at 3:01 pm
MONTREAL, May 4, 2017 /PRNewswire/ –Fortuna Fix Inc.(“Fortuna”), a private, clinical-stage biotech company, is aiming to be the first to eliminate the need for embryonic and fetal stem cells by using direct reprogramming of autologous cells to treat neurodegenerative diseases. Fortuna announced today the launch of its Scientific Advisory Board (“SAB”) with Professor Michael Fehlings, MD, PhD; Father Kevin FitzGerald, S.J., PhD; Col. (R) Dallas Hack, MD, MPH; and Professor James Giordano, PhD.
“We are excited and honored to have these world-leading experts join our SAB,” says CEO Jan-Eric Ahlfors. “We look forward to working with them to bring our novel regenerative medicine solutions to patients suffering from neurotrauma and neurodegeneration.”
Fortuna’s two flagship technologies autologous directly reprogrammed neural precursor cells (“drNPC”) and Regeneration Matrix (“RMx”) are poised to lead a revolution in neuro-regeneration.
For the first time, patients suffering from neurotrauma or neurodegeneration will be able to get treated with autologous neural stem cells produced by direct reprogramming (i.e. starting with and only using the patient’s own cells, bypassing use of pluripotent stem cells and avoiding harvesting and use of human embryos or fetuses). The method of direct reprogramming developed by Fortuna relies on an ethical, rapid, high throughput, low cost and fully automated manufacturing process. As drNPC do not involve any genetic engineering, pluripotent stem cells, or use of immune-suppression, it provides patients with personalized stem cells that are also expected to have a greater safety profile. In addition, drNPC are expected to replace dead neural cells, something that no other current technology can do effectively.
RMx is a unique and highly efficient bio-scaffold for the promotion of neural tissue regrowth.
“Our testing of drNPC at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre of the University Health Network in various Spinal Cord Injury (“SCI”) animal models to characterize their regenerative capacity and safety profile indicates that drNPC are a promising source of therapeutic stem cells with potential for tissue preservation and functional improvement after SCI. I am highly encouraged by the reprogramming efficiency of drNPC and look forward to leading the clinical development of drNPC for SCI,” says Professor Fehlings, after working on the drNPC in his lab for two years.
Dr. Hack further remarks:”Fortuna’s autologous drNPC represent a major advance in cell therapy for treatment of CNS injury and degeneration. For the first time, neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes the three type of cells of the brain and spinal cord can be repaired and replaced where these cells have died or been destroyed due to trauma or neurodegenerative disease. Fortuna’s proprietary automated manufacturing addresses a key hurdle of personalized cell therapy, making drNPC commercially viable both at small and large scale”
“Stem cell therapeutics have been plagued with controversy and hype, raising ethical and political issues that have resulted in a relatively hostile funding environment for research and development in the field. I am excited to work alongside Fortuna to help advance development of their ethical and commercially viable platform for cell therapeutics to benefit patients, their families, and our entire society,” says Father FitzGerald.
The SAB members encompass unique expertise in key areas of importance for the company:
Professor Michael G. Fehlings, MD, PhD, FRCSC, FACS
Dr. Michael Fehlings is a world-renowned Neurosurgeon focusing on Spinal Cord Injury and a leader in the field of stem cell therapeutics for SCI. Dr. Fehlings is the Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Surgery, Co-Director of the Spine Program and a Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Toronto. He is well known for his work on early decompressive surgery, which demonstrated significant improvement on neurological and functional outcomes after SCI that had an important impact on how spinal trauma is managed today. Recently, during the Henry Farfan Award ceremony (2013), he was described as the “single most influential active spinal cord injury researcher and clinician in the world.”Dr. Fehlings is also the recipient of the coveted Olivecrona Award from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden (known as the “Nobel Prize of Neuroscience”).
Dr. Fehlings has been an integral part of the work performed by independent validators sponsored by CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research) on Fortuna’s technology. Dr. Fehlings’ work was presented at the annual International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) conference in June 2016 in San Francisco with a follow up to be presented at the ISSCR in June 2017 in Boston.
Father Kevin T. FitzGerald, S.J., PhD, PhD
Father Kevin FitzGerald is a Professor at Georgetown University and advisor to the Vatican on Bioethics (including human genetic engineering, cloning, stem cell research, and personalized medicine). Father FitzGerald is the Dr. David Lauler Chair of Catholic Health Care Ethics in the Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Oncology at the Georgetown University Medical Center. He is a founding member of Do No Harm, a member of the ethics committee for the March of Dimes, a member of the Genetic Alliance IRB, and a member of the Georgetown-MedStar Hospital Ethics Committee. Father FitzGerald has been a Corresponding Member of the Pontifical Academy of Life since 2005, and has been a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture since 2014. He has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics, and a second Ph.D. in bioethics, from Georgetown University. His research efforts focus on the investigation of abnormal gene expression in cancer, and on ethical issues in biomedical research and medical genomics.
Col. (R) Dallas Hack, MD, MPH, MMS, CPE
Dr. Dallas Hack, recently retired from the US military, is one of the leaders of military medicine of his time, with a particular focus on brain health (Traumatic Brain Injury (“TBI”) and concussion). He served as the Director of the US Army Combat Casualty Care Research Program and Chair of the Joint Program Committee for Combat Casualty Care from 2008 to 2014 and as the Senior Medical Advisor to the Principal Assistant for Research and Technology, US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command from 2014 to 2015. He coordinated more than 70% of the Department of Defense trauma research to improve battlefield trauma care of those injured in combat at a time when the Department of Defense funded more TBI research than any other organization in the world because of the increasing awareness of the massive burden of TBI in the military. He has held numerous military medical leadership positions, including Chief of Clinical Services at Fort Knox, KY, Commander of the NATO Headquarters Healthcare Facility, and Command Surgeon at the strategic level during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Col. (R) Dallas Hack has received numerous military awards, including the Bronze Star, two Legion of Merit awards, and seven Meritorious Service Medals and was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Military Order of Medical Merit. He has appointments from the School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh as Adjunct Professor of Neurosurgery, and from the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University as Associate Clinical Professor.
Professor James Giordano, PhD, MPhil
Dr. James Giordano is Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Biochemistry, and Chief of the Neuroethics Studies Program at the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics of Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC. Prof.Giordano has served as a member of the Neuroethics, Legal and Social Issues Advisory Panel of the Defense Advanced Research Projects’ Agency (DARPA), as a Senior Science Advisory Fellow of the Strategic Multilayer Assessment Branch of the Joint Staff of the Pentagon, is an appointed member of the Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Council for Human Research Protection, and is a Research Fellow of the European Union Human Brain Project. In recognition of his ongoing work, Prof. Giordano was elected to the European Academy of Science and Arts.
About Fortuna Fix Inc.
Fortuna is a private, clinical-stage biotech company with a patented direct cell reprogramming technology platform together with a patented bio-scaffolding technology for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases and neurotrauma. The company is focused on clinical development of its platforms for a range of neurodegenerative diseases including SCI, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, TBI, and ALS. The company has developed a proprietary fully automated GMP manufacturing system for production of drNPC, initially to be used in clinical trials in Parkinson’s disease and Spinal Cord Injury.
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SOURCE Fortuna Fix, Inc.