Of all the new technology that we see, surely the most impactful is anything that helps to advance our understanding of illness and disease, and promotes global health? The mammoth industry that is biotechnology is just as lucrative, it seems, as the consumer technology market with both sectors worth hundreds of billions of dollars a year. In reality however, a huge amount of our understanding of health and disease comes not from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, but from research labs funded by governments.
Brazil is currently experiencing a major health scare which threatens to spread to all of the Americas. Zika virus, carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, has been tentatively linked to a rise in the birth defect, microcephaly, among new-born babies. No vaccine is currently approved to prevent infection with the virus, and so a UK-based biotech company has begun work towards stopping the spread via a more controversial means.
They are using a technique which involves injecting mosquito larvae with tiny volumes of genetically-modified DNA in the hope that it will be taken up by the larval cells and can then be multiplied through breeding this modified mosquito with others, creating a genetically modified population. The modified DNA contains a gene (a section of DNA which performs a certain function) which causes male mosquito cells to produce a toxic protein. This eventually leads to their death before adulthood and prevents them reproducing.
So… it’s basically massive-scale mosquito birth control! The hope is that by releasing huge numbers of these mosquitoes into the environment in Zika affected areas, the population of the mosquitoes that spread the virus will begin to decline and prevent infection spreading. Tests in the Brazilian city of Piracicaba have apparently shown really high success rates at cutting the numbers of the virus-carrying mosquitoes. Win for technology.
Another (brilliant) piece of news is that UK scientists at the Francis Crick Institute, based right here in London, have received permission to begin editing the genes in live human embryos. Their plan has been a subject of controversy for many years, which is understandable considering the fact that they basically want to edit the human genome. However, it paves the way for crucial research into development, which is the subject of the scientists’ research with the embryos.
To edit the genome of the embryos, researches will use a technique that has been touted a fair bit recently called CRISPR Cas9. It is a relatively new way of editing DNA to include genes which are to be studied and is cheaper and far easier than any previous way of doing this. CRISPR Cas9 genome editing was developed to work in human cells in 2013, and is subject to a huge global patent battle as several groups claim to have discovered it first.
To understand the implications that genome editing has, think that every embryo starts off as one cell. If the DNA is edited here, it will be copied to every other cell in the resulting individual. It is a valuable tool to edit the DNA of very early embryos in the lab, which is why the license was granted. However, the scientists can only keep the embryos alive for around a week before killing them, meaning that the DNA is not changed in an actual person. Some people argue that we should not allow genome editing as it may lead to people wanting to change specific genes to alter the looks or other aspects of their babies – so called ‘designer babies’.
My views are that this is an extremely positive step for science, and shows that the UK is a global leader when it comes to scientific policy. It has been proven that uses of embryo genome modification can be limited to research and people needn’t be worried about pushy parents all rushing out to buy blonde, athletic, studious kids from Harley Street.
What are your views? Good for science or bad for society? Let us know in the comments below!
This article was written by Alex Kyrtsoudis
With large amounts of studying, most people like to have a musical background to help them concentrate (if you don’t, this article probably isn’t for you!) What music you pick, however, can really impact your study efficiency. For example, if you make the mistake, as I have done in the past, of having The Streets on repeat, you’ll end up writing “Don’t Mug Yourself” in the middle of your algebra notes …
Since the turn of the year, some really incredible new music has been released and I thought I’d do a little round up for you lovely people. These are the tracks you need rattling around your skulls right now, and represent the artists whose futures look very bright in 2016.
I was going to write the entire piece about Adele this week, and how she has just been confirmed as the last Glastonbury Headliner (she announced it whilst on stage at London’s O2). I had a whole monologue planned backing her for the slot. However, I’m going to cut it shortI was going to write the entire piece about Adele this week, and how she has just been confirmed as the last Glastonbury Headliner (she announced it whilst on stage at London’s O2). I had a whole monologue planned backing her for the slot. However, I’m going to cut it short...
Compact Disk? Vinyl? TAPE?! How do you listen to your music? With Record Store Day 2016 just around the corner Sachin Turakhia shares his views in the topic.
The Maccabees, British Sea Power, The Kooks and Blood Red Shoes all hail from Brighton, and each year the city plays host to Europe’s best new music festival, The Great Escape. It seems the city is in a real purple patch right now though, and I’d like to share with you some of the best new acts coming from the city
It’s awards season. The creative industries, most notably music and film, love to end winter with an elaborate and expensive knees-up in the name of celebrating talent. The shows are meant to be a celebration of achievements from the last 12 months. However, more often than not, they are just an excuse for the failings of an industry to be highlighted by the press, and for stars to fight with each other.
Coincidentally, on the same week that the annual NME awards show took place, the magazine announced its first circulation figures since it made the drastic change to become a free publication back in September 2015. The iconic publication made the decision to start distributing for free after their circulation figures dropped to a low of only 15,384. The figures just released have shown a jump to the highest ever recorded in NME’s 64 year history - 307,217. This is great news for all involved; it appears that Britain’s most famous music paper has been saved.
Beyoncé is back. “Formation,” her new single (and tour), is a serious statement. The track is laced with political and social commentaries. Bey is making an incredibly bold point. Bringing the deepening racial divides in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the public’s attention, whilst also marking her support for the Black Lives Matter charity and campaign.
The opening track, “Love Within” has been around since November, and is a very clear statement that Bloc Party are no longer the same band from the early noughties.
Once again Greta Gerwig reunites with Noah Baumbach to tell the wallflower's story, the story of teenage angst and the need for self actualisation but falls down with the one-dimensionality in it's lack of varied characters.
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Pleasant is often overrated, we often feel the need to experience the extremes of emotion but sometimes the middle ground is where we should aim.
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The movie is deeply inquisitive and it raises many questions about the nature of consciousness and ethical behaviour but still manages to inject humour into this fairly heavy topic
Reminiscent enough of previous instalments to satisfy the longing of nostalgia but distinct and fresh enough to draw you in and never let you go. The relationships on screen are less sassy...