Scientists, journalists and policy-makers gathered in Washington, DC this week for the International Summit on Human Gene Editing at the National Academies of Science. The meeting, which NAS co-hosted with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the U.K.’s Royal Society, was billed as a global discussion of “the scientific, ethical, and governance issues associated with human gene-editing research.” In particular, the summit focused on the implications of the emergence of CRISPR, a new gene-editing technique which is cheaper, more versatile and more precise than any currently in use.
This topic is a little complex for cats, so we’ll let the experts help out. Ed Yong, in The Atlantic, outlines the basics of the technique and what scientists are working on to make it even better, while Tina Saey writes in Science News about the significant safety and ethical issues and the guidelines in place for further development.
While scientists work on the fancy new stuff, cats will continue to use their traditional techniques for editing your jeans – shedding, clawing and nomming.
This week, the US Food and Drug Administration approved its first genetically modified animal, the AquAdvantage salmon, as safe to eat. The FDA found that the GM salmon are “as safe to eat as any non-genetically engineered Atlantic salmon, and also as nutritious.” It will not require that stores label the salmon as genetically modified, although they may still do so.
The AquAdvantage salmon, created in 1989, is similar to the Atlantic salmon, but is modified so that it carries a growth hormone found in the Chinook salmon and a segment of DNA taken from the pout fish, which boost its growth. As a result, the AquAdvantage salmon grows much faster than normal Atlantic salmon, reaching a market-ready size in about half the time. Bigger fish faster? Our science cats give this genetic tweak two paws up.
The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded this week to Arthur McDonald and Takaaki Kajita for their work with neutrinos.
The two were honored for their contributions to experiments demonstrating that subatomic particles called neutrinos change identities. The neutrinos transform themselves among three types: electron-type, muon-type and tau-type.
The transformation requires that neutrinos have mass, dispelling the long-held notion that they were massless. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobels, said the discovery “has changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter.”
This is super impressive and, more importantly, gives us an excuse to re-run this awesome lolcat.
Scientists this week announced the strongest evidence yet that there may be liquid water on Mars. A paper published in Nature Geoscience described observations made by researchers over the past three years that indicate that water – most likely in the form of a salty brine – appears seasonally on Mars, forming dark lines as it trickles down steep slopes. Although scientists have known for years that Mars once had water, the new evidence provides hope that one day humans may discover life on the red planet. The latest announcement was based on the study of photographs of the surface of Mars. However, we can reveal here exclusively that a super-sekrit kitteh mission led by Commander Kibbles flew up to have a look and can confirm the findings. Yes, there is water, and yes, it is yucky.