science
Artificial Genome Scientists Want to Build Human Cells That Are Impervious to Viruses

Two years ago, a consortium of scientists, lawyers, and entrepreneurs announced a plan to synthesise an artificial human genome from scratch—an extremely ambitious endeavour that’s struggled to secure funding. Project organisers have now disclosed details of a scaled-down version of the venture, but with a goal that’s still quite audacious: creating human cells that are invulnerable to infections. Read More >>

science
Scientists Kept Disembodied Pig Brains ‘Alive’ for 36 Hours – and It’s Testing Our Conceptions of Death

A neuroscientist from Yale University is claiming to have developed a technique that preserves the brain tissue of pigs for an extended period following decapitation. The brains are apparently not conscious, but the new technique is raising a number of important ethical issues. Read More >>

robots
Experts Sign Open Letter Slamming Europe’s Proposal to Recognise Robots as Legal Persons

Over 150 experts in AI, robotics, commerce, law, and ethics from 14 countries have signed an open letter denouncing the European Parliament’s proposal to grant personhood status to intelligent machines. The EU says the measure will make it easier to figure out who’s liable when robots screw up or go rogue, but critics say it’s too early to consider robots as persons—and that the law will let manufacturers off the liability hook. Read More >>

science
Why Purebred Dogs Are Sick, Miserable, and Ugly

Earlier this month, the Westminster Kennel Club hosted its popular annual dog show, where canines of all shapes and sizes get to strut their stuff in front of discerning judges. Seems like harmless fun, but many purebred dogs are, or soon will be, in poor physical health—the result of an emphasis on cosmetic, and not functional, physical characteristics. Read More >>

science
A Baby Conceived in 1992 Was Born Just Last Month

Wrap your head around this one: On November 25, 2017 a healthy baby girl was born to a 26-year-old mother in Tennessee—but the embryo that would later result in the baby was conceived and cryogenically frozen in 1992. It’s now considered the oldest known frozen embryo to result in a successful birth. Read More >>

science
Unconscious Patient With ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ Tattoo Causes Ethical Conundrum at Hospital

When an unresponsive patient arrived at a Florida hospital ER, the medical staff was taken aback upon discovering the words “DO NOT RESUSCITATE” tattooed onto the man’s chest—with the word “NOT” underlined and with his signature beneath it. Confused and alarmed, the medical staff chose to ignore the apparent DNR request—but not without alerting the hospital’s ethics team, who had a different take on the matter. Read More >>

animals
US Lawsuit Is the First to Claim Elephants as Legal Persons

Yesterday, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a petition on behalf of three elephants being kept at a Connecticut zoo. The suit demands that the court recognise these animals as “legal persons” and release them to sanctuary, but given that the same legal team failed to secure similar person hood rights for chimps in New York, it’s not immediately clear how successful the new effort will be. Read More >>

science
This Guy Just Injected Himself With a DIY HIV Treatment on Facebook Live

Tristan Roberts sits sandwiched between two men on a couch in a bland DC apartment, with leafy, dusk-lit trees peeking out from the sheer curtains behind him. The mundanity of the setting betrays the extremity of what is about to happen next. On the elliptical glass coffee table in front of him is a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a tray holding a glass of water, several vials, and syringes. Roberts is about to inject himself with an experimental gene therapy for HIV, a DIY prototype treatment designed by three biohacker friends. The treatment had never been tested in humans. Read More >>

animals
Unethical Breeding is Creating Serious Health Problems for German Shepherds

German Shepherds are among the most popular dog breeds in the world, but their numbers have started to decline. New research suggests the decreasing demand for German Shepherds may have something to do with the breed’s propensity for health problems—likely the result of selective breeding for cosmetic traits. Read More >>

science
Scientists in the US Reportedly Just Edited a Human Embryo for the First Time

China has long been ahead of the US when it comes to human genetic engineering—there, the idea seems far less morally fraught. But for the first time, scientists in the United States have now genetically modified a human embryo, according to a new report in the MIT Technology Review. At Oregon Health and Science University, the publication reports, scientists are using the gene-editing technique CRISPR to alter the DNA of a “large number of one-cell embryos.” Read More >>

science
Gene Editing Controversy Reminds Us Just How Much Money Influences Science

Recently, a kerfuffle in the world of CRISPR illustrated just how easily money—and our perception of it—can impact science. Read More >>

science
This Controversial Doctor Wants to Use ‘Three-Parent’ Embryos to Treat Infertility

Last autumn, John Zhang made headlines after his fertility clinic announced that for the first time a baby had been born using a new technique requiring three genetic parents. The baby’s mother carried the genes for a fatal nervous system disorder called Leigh syndrome, but Zhang had been able to keep the disease from being inherited by her son by swapping in a donor’s mitochondrial DNA, the teeny bit of DNA where Leigh syndrome is housed. Since the technique is illegal in the US, the baby had been born in Mexico, where, as Zhang explained in a comment he might live to regret, “there are no rules.” Read More >>

futurism
When Will Robots Deserve Human Rights?

Films and TV shows like Blade Runner, Humans, and Westworld, where highly advanced robots have no rights, trouble our conscience. They show us that our behaviours are not just harmful to robots—they also demean and diminish us as a species. We like to think we’re better than the characters on the screen, and that when the time comes, we’ll do the right thing, and treat our intelligent machines with a little more dignity and respect. Read More >>

archaeology
Over 7,000 Bodies May Be Buried Beneath Mississippi University

In what sounds like a clichéd horror movie premise, a recent investigation suggests as many as 7,000 bodies are buried across 20 acres at the Mississippi Medical Center Campus—the former site of the state’s first mental institution. Officials at the university now face the grim task of pulling 100-year-old bodies out of the ground for scientific analysis. Read More >>