Target of first human gene editing cuts life expectancy short

Target of first human gene editing cuts life expectancy short

Enlarge / Chinese geneticist He Jiankui speaks during the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing at the University of Hong Kong days after he claimed to have altered the genes of the embryo of a pair of twin girls before birth, prompting outcry from scientists of the field. (credit: S.C. Leung/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Late last year, a Chinese researcher shocked the scientific community when he announced that the first gene-edited humans had already been born. He Jiankui barreled past an emerging consensus that the technology wasn’t ready for use and, once it was, should be reserved for otherwise untreatable diseases. Instead of respecting those boundaries, He did much of his work without any clear institutional oversight.

Rather than target an incurable genetic disorder, He Jiankui focused on something for which we have both preventative measures and treatments: HIV infection. He did so by using CRISPR gene

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Genes from an extinct “ghost ape” live on in modern bonobos

Genes from an extinct “ghost ape” live on in modern bonobos

Enlarge / Bonobos carrying the footprint of an ancient, extinct species of ape. (credit: flickr user: Reflexiste)

Chimpanzee fossils are thin on the ground. After their lineage parted ways with ours, our human ancestors spent millennia kicking about in arid regions and caves ideal for preserving our remains. The ancestors of modern chimpanzees and bonobos, meanwhile, were hanging out in the lush jungles of central Africa.

“There’s a reason pretty much every image of a paleontologist in the field is in a desert or badlands,” writes paleontologist Dave Hone. Fossils can be found only when we have access to exposed rocks that were formed in the epoch of interest, and so “the rainforests of the Congo… are useless.” Add to that the quick decomposition of bodies in rich, acidic rainforest soil, and you have a huge gap in understanding where our modern cousins come from.

But “genomic fossils” could

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