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Friday, December 23, 2016

THE ASTONISHING ADVANCE OF CRISPR

Genetic Engineering is at the threshold of curing:
  • cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Alzheimer's
  • and determining your child's
    • IQ
    • hair color
    • mathematical ability
    • size
    • ability to break the record for the 100 yard dash
Just this year I have three times posted on Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats, or CRISPR, beginning with THE CUTTING EDGE OF GENETIC ENGINEERING.  You can click on that article to learn the fundamentals of this scientific technique.  

Turns out that TIME magazine was close to naming the CRISPR pioneers People of the Year--click on that to view a short clip on the subject--but chose Donald Trump instead.

It was only four years ago that CRISPR was unveiled by Molecular Cell Biologist Jennifer Duodena, Professor of Chemistry and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley, Microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, and Biomedical Engineer Feng Zhang of Harvard/MIT (left to right):


CRISPR development has been astonishing for its rapidity of implementation, considering how long computers evolved through history:
  • The abacus, invented by the Egyptians in the 10th century BC and perfected by the Chinese 2200 years later, the 1200's.
  • Napier Bones, a calculator built by Scottish inventor John Napier in 1617.
  • Pascal's Calculator, by French scientist Blaise Pascal in 1642.
  • Leibniz Calculator, by German mathematician Gottfried Leibniz in 1671.
  • Analytical Engine, by Englishman Charles Babbage (right), who became known as the father of the computer with his device.
  • Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), through a grant from the U.S. Army to the University of Pennsylvania for $487,000 (worth $6.8 million today) in 1943.
  • Oh, the world's smallest computer can fit on the edge of a nickel, developed at the University of Michigan.  It can be injected into the body to take ECGs, or down an oil well to measure various parameters.
  • Cray Research in the 1960's built the first supercomputer, and the largest today is the Chinese Sunway TaihuLight at 93 Peta (1 followed by 15 zeros) floating-point operations per second.  No hardware comes from the USA.
So, while it has only been four years since CRISPR was announced, it took about 3000 years for the computer to come to what it is today.  The question for CRISPR is what will it do next year.
  • The University Pennsylvania again comes on the scene, for Carl June will use CRISPR to treat 18 patients with "hopeless" cancer ailments.  This is the very first time this technique will be used in the USA to treat a human disease, and funding is not from the National Institutes of Health, which are very, very cautious.  
  • Sean Parker (right), formerly of Facebook, founded the $250 million Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, and June's efforts are linked to private sector funding.
  • The legal ramifications of who owns CRISPR are confounding, especially when you include South Korea, China, the European Union and Singapore, for:
    • Chinese scientists at Sichuan University have already treated a cancer patient, and, further, edited human embryos.
    • The world is anxious about Donald Trump easing restrictions to overcome the Chinese.
Humanity is thus on the cusp of playing God.  As anguished as most Americans might be, religion is not an issue in parts of our global society.  Bioethics has thus far dominated international discussions, but all it takes is one organization, anywhere, to open this Pandora Box.  On the other hand, maybe this next generation rainbow chest will on balance mostly release beneficial gifts.

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Typhoon Nock-ten is at 80 MPH and could attain Category 4 status, before slightly weakening and threatening Manila around Christmas:


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