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Scientists have successfully performed CRISPR gene editing in a live human body for the first time ever

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CRISPR-Cas9 is the cutting-edge genomic technology that essentially lets you target exact sequences in DNA and then cut into them like a knife and insert or remove a gene. You may remember it from that Chinese scientist who successfully (but controversially) implanted gene-edited embryos into a woman who then gave birth to live lab babies. More often, it’s used to create things like malaria-resistant mosquitoes or mushrooms that don’t brown as fast.

But it does have a lot of practical medical potential, too. It’s already been used to remove HIV from a patient’s genome. And now, after CRISPRing out a blindness-causing gene from mice, scientists have now successfully scaled-up this procedure to work in a live human body. From NPR:

In this new experiment, doctors at the Casey Eye Institute in Portland, Ore., injected (into the eye of a patient who is nearly blind from a condition called Leber congenital amaurosis) microscopic droplets carrying a harmless virus that had been engineered to deliver the instructions to manufacture the CRISPR gene-editing machinery.

[…]

The goal is that once the virus carrying the CRISPR instructions has been infused into the eye, the gene-editing tool will slice out the genetic defect that caused the blindness. That would, the researchers hope, restore production of a crucial protein and prevent the death of cells in the retina, as well as revive other cells — enabling patients to regain at least some vision.

[…]

The procedure, which takes about an hour to perform, involves making tiny incisions that enable access to the back of the eye. That allows a surgeon to inject three droplets of fluid containing billions of copies of the virus that has been engineered to carry the CRISPR gene-editing instructions under the retina.

Essentially, this means they’re using the CRISP technology to remove the one mutated gene in the person’s DNA that is responsible for the defect that causes this specific kind of blindness. While it’s too early to know if it actually worked — the human body will still need some time to re-map itself and adjust to its new genes — but the potential to make these kinds of changes in live human bodies is huge.

In A 1st, Scientists Use Revolutionary Gene-Editing Tool To Edit Inside A Patient [Rob Stein / NPR]

Image: Public Domain


Source: Scientists have successfully performed CRISPR gene editing in a live human body for the first time ever

Revolutionize your next Dungeons & Dragons game with this anticapitalist / anarchist campaign guide

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From the Dungeon Masters Guild:

Eat the Rich is a collection of explicitly anticapitalist adventures for  the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. Each original adventure dives into classic D&D tropes, and puts a new spin on them. Tackling issues of workers’ rights, health care, the prison industrial complex, the environment, animal rights, agriculture and more, these adventures will make you passionate to join the revolution.

Eat the Rich features 17 original adventures for tiers 1-4, in a 213 page colour PDF. Set in the Forgotten Realms, Ravnica, Eberron, or ready to be dropped into your own setting, the anthology features work by a global team of new and established designers and artists.

If you want to free the Goblins from the bonds of racial oppression and forge your dwarves together in an iron working union to face down the tyrannical production expectations of the rock giants, now’s your chance.

Eat the Rich, Volume 1 [Dungeon Masters Guild]

Image: Huntleigh / Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)


Source: Revolutionize your next Dungeons & Dragons game with this anticapitalist / anarchist campaign guide

This tiny skull trapped in amber belongs to the smallest dinosaur ever discovered

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The tiny skull, about the size of a thumbnail, trapped in amber may belong to the smallest dinosaur scientists have ever discovered. Paleontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences spotted the skull in a 99-million-year-old chunk of amber from northern Myanmar. From the New York Times:

[Xing, Chinese Academy of Sciences paleontologist Jingmai O’Connor, and their colleagues] called the bird Oculudentavis khaungraae — a name that comes from the Latin words for eye, teeth and bird. The dinosaur’s skull is only 14.25 millimeters, or a little more than half an inch, from its beak to the end of its skull. The animal had bulbous eyes that looked out from the sides of its head, rather than straight ahead like the eyes of an owl or a human.

“We were able to show that this skull is even smaller than that of a bee hummingbird, which is the smallest dinosaur of all time — also the smallest bird,” O’Connor said. “This is a tiny skull, and it’s just preserved absolutely pristinely”….

Most scientists now believe that birds are theropods, dinosaurs of a group that included tyrannosaurus and spinosaurus, but that birds were on their own evolutionary branch from a common ancestor. Paleontologists have long assumed that as birds evolved away from other dinosaurs, having teeth was a trait that was in the process of disappearing altogether. “But this specimen strongly shows that evolution’s really going in all different directions,” Dr. O’Connor said.

More at Nature: “Tiny bird fossil might be the world’s smallest dinosaur

image: Lida Xing


Source: This tiny skull trapped in amber belongs to the smallest dinosaur ever discovered

Artist makes travel posters for National Parks based on their worst 1-star reviews

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“There are bugs and they will bite on your face.” — a bad review about Sequoia National Park

This is hilarious. Designer Amber Share discovered that there were one-star reviews for all 62 of our National Parks and decided to illustrate and hand letter travel posters for them “as a way to put a positive, fun spin on such a negative mindset.” She calls her Subpar Parks series a “snarky love letter to the National Parks System” and it’s absolutely delightful.

See the entire series on her Instagram, and purchase stickers and postcards (mugs and calendars to come) on her website.

(MetaFilter)

images via Amber Share, used with permission


Source: Artist makes travel posters for National Parks based on their worst 1-star reviews