Experts Cast Doubt on Groundbreaking CRISPR Embryo Editing Research

Second Opinion

CRISPR is one of the most amazing technological advances in recent years, giving scientists the ability to tinker with DNA in ways that were never before possible. Last month, a team of researchers became the first in the U.S. to use CRISPR to edit human embryos. Now, the results of that study are being called into question.

Scientists led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of the Oregon Health and Science University used CRISPR to remove the MYBPC3 gene — which is known to cause a heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Afterwards, the embryos were said to repair themselves using healthy genes from their mother as a template.

This hasn’t been seen in previous studies utilizing CRISPR, which has prompted some scientists to question the legitimacy of the research. This week, a group of geneticists, developmental biologists, and stem cell researchers posited some alternative explanations in a paper published via bioRxiv.

Peer Pressure

The response to Mitalipov’s study suggests the possibility that some of the embryos never took on any paternal DNA. In that case, they wouldn’t have inherited the mutation in the first place; the one that was supposedly removed. It is possible for embryos to develop from maternal DNA alone during in vitro fertilization, but that instance wasn’t acknowledged by the research.

There’s also a chance that CRISPR did remove the mutated gene, but that gene wasn’t replaced with a healthy version. Such a scenario would mean that while no mutation could be detected, other sections of DNA might be missing — which could potentially cause major problems.

Peer review is essential to the growth of emerging technologies like CRISPR. Earlier this year, a paper that highlighted potential issues with CRISPR was swiftly refuted by another team of researchers. Given that it’s entirely possible for phony studies to be published, scientists are often required to keep one another in check.

Mitalipov stands by the study, but acknowledges the importance of interrogating its findings. “We encourage other scientists to reproduce our findings by conducting their own experiments on human embryos and publishing their results,” said the researcher in a statement published in Science.

The post Experts Cast Doubt on Groundbreaking CRISPR Embryo Editing Research appeared first on Futurism.


A Groundbreaking Discovery Just Verified the Existence of Orbiting Supermassive Black Holes

Supermassive Orbit

Researchers at the University of New Mexico (UNM) have made an incredible discovery that could help us better understand not just black holes, but also the universe.

For the first time ever, astronomers have observed and measured two supermassive black holes orbiting one another. The black holes are hundreds of millions of light-years from us, but that just happens to be the perfect distance from the Earth for optimal observation.

*5* A Groundbreaking Discovery Just Verified The Existence of Orbiting Supermassive Black Holes
Artist’s concept of two supermassive black holes, similar to those observed by UNM researchers, orbiting one another. Image Credit: Joshua Valenzuela/UNM

The observation process was an undertaking 12 years in the making. “For a long time, we’ve been looking into space to try and find a pair of these supermassive black holes orbiting as a result of two galaxies merging,” professor Greg Taylor explained in a UNM news release. “Even though we’ve theorized that this should be happening, nobody had ever seen it until now.”

The team used the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to plot the black holes’ trajectories and confirm that they are indeed in orbit with one another. However, the size of the black holes makes their orbital period around 24,000 years, so even after viewing the binary system for over a decade, the scientists have yet to witness any curvature in their orbit.

Learning Opportunity

These orbiting black holes could teach us a great deal about our universe. “Supermassive black holes have a lot of influence on the stars around them and the growth and evolution of the galaxy,” Taylor explained. “So, understanding more about them and what happens when they merge with one another could be important for our understanding for the universe.”

The Space Telescopes of Tomorrow [Infographic]
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Bob Zavala, an astronomer with the U.S. Naval Observatory, likens the potential of this discovery to what astronomers were able to learn about stars from studying their binary orbits. “Now we’ll be able to use similar techniques to understand super-massive black holes and the galaxies they reside within,” he told UNM.

The UNM team plans to observe the black holes again in three or four years to confirm their findings and get a more precise reading of the orbit. This discovery will undoubtedly provide a wealth of new knowledge for many years to come.

The post A Groundbreaking Discovery Just Verified the Existence of Orbiting Supermassive Black Holes appeared first on Futurism.


Ultrahaptics finds deep pockets for their groundbreaking AR/VR tech

Business people using virtual reality goggles in meeting in office. Team of developers testing virtual reality headset.

With the rapid development of VR and AR technologies, we have experienced fascinating virtual environments, but in terms of haptic feedbacks and vivid feelings, the market still lacks practical and mature solutions. Ultrahaptics, which was founded in 2013 based on technology originally developed at the University of Bristol, has developed technology that uses ultrasound to virtually create 3D objects and real-life sensations so that users can get feedback from touchless buttons by seemingly gesturing in midair. Its technology will enhance user experience so that VR and AR-related products…Read More

Connected Devices – ReadWrite

DRIVEN consortium will undertake ‘groundbreaking’ driverless car trial

A consortium of vehicle companies known as DRIVEN has announced plans to undertake a ‘groundbreaking’ driverless car trial between Oxford and London on UK roads and motorways.

Most current UK driverless car trials have focused on areas with slow-moving traffic or not on public roads. Using V2V (Vehicle-to-Vehicle) technology, the cars will communicate with each other to warn of potential hazards. While the cars will drive autonomously, a human will be on board in the vehicle to help ensure safety during the initial trials.

DRIVEN will show how autonomous vehicles will change the world

AI software maker Oxbotica leads the DRIVEN consortium. The company’s founder, Professor Paul Newman of Oxford University, says: “We’re moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle to fleets of autonomous vehicles – and what’s interesting is what data the vehicles share with one another, when, and why.”

The project has received £8 million in funding by the Government’s CCAV (Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles) which set aside £13 million for driverless investments. Within the next two and a half years, the government plans to have a fleet of autonomous vehicles on UK roads.

DRIVEN will have access to the RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) facility operated by the UK Atomic Energy Authority for its trials. This state-of-the-art robotics centre based at Culham Science Centre intends to consolidate its position as a test site for driverless cars.

From the RACE facility, the driverless vehicles will be able to make use of a 10km track replicating the roads, junctions, roundabouts, and even traffic lights and pedestrian crossings the cars will have to deal with safely once on public roads. It will test their ability to monitor and react to other vehicles, cyclists, and people in realistic circumstances, whatever the weather.

RACE Director, Rob Buckingham, said: “RACE has been working with Oxbotica for some time now. The DRIVEN team brings together the right combination of interests and enthusiasm to change the conversation in this exciting field from mostly speculation to real world detail. DRIVEN will show how autonomous vehicles will change the world, both for the public and industrial users.”

The vehicles need to be robust in their ability to deal with the unpredictable nature of the road for both safety reasons and to prove their worth to a public who remain anxious to let go of the wheel and let a computer take over control of their vehicles.

“DRIVEN is important because it will answer questions around cyber security and insurance as well as the underlying technology. RACE has a key supporting role: enabling testing on the Culham Science Centre site before we venture on the public roads,” continues Buckingham. “DRIVEN reinforces our aspiration to enable connected and autonomous vehicles to be widely adopted. Starting in Oxfordshire we are already thinking about how autonomous vehicles fit within modern transport plans for both Oxford and Didcot Garden Town. DRIVEN is a very important step on this journey.”

Trials on public roads are due to begin in 2019 and IoT Tech will keep you updated on all developments.

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