The military has long been interested in what medical ethicist Jonathan Moreno calls “the whole supersoldier business” — using technology to produce bionically or pharmaceutically superior warfighters. Moreno, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is interested too. Specifically, in one question that keeps gnawing at him: How much can a soldier’s brain bear?
“You can know that with a backpack — 60, 70 pounds — there is a limit,” he tells Future Human. “But what are the kinds of limits to the neurotechnologies that a soldier can carry around?”
Moreno’s discussions on this topic with his former postdoc, Nick…
Caitlin Michelle is four months’ pregnant, and although she doesn’t know the sex of her baby yet, she says she thinks about it every day. Michelle is positive for BRCA, the so-called breast cancer gene, and there is a 50% chance she’ll pass it on — a serious risk if she gives birth to a girl.
“If I have a daughter,” she says, “I will probably think about it every day of her life.”
Michelle, a 32-year-old public health practitioner in Illinois, only learned she was BRCA-positive last year. The news upended her life plans to eventually have more children…
Reengineering Life is a column from Future Human about the ways humans are using biology to reprogram our bodies and the world around us.
Children who are born with a rare genetic disease called progeria tragically live, on average, only until their mid-teens, though they look much older. Their bodies age so rapidly — up to 10 times faster than normal — that they usually die prematurely from heart attacks or strokes before they can finish high school. The culprit is a single-letter misspelling in their DNA.
The collision of technology and medicine has resulted in the future that early science fiction writers dreamed of: One where electronic medical devices are implanted into the body, making people truly bionic.
At Future Human, we’ve written a lot about these devices and the ways they can revolutionize medical treatment. In October, staff writer and resident biotech expert Emily Mullin wrote about a tiny device, snaked through the jugular vein into the brain, that can read the thoughts of paralyzed people, allowing them to type. Earlier this year, she wrote about a scientist who got a deep brain stimulation device…
So much of modern life is digital that the amount of data we’re generating is quickly outpacing the amount of storage space we have for that data. Not only does this mean we may need to build more massive data centers, but it’s bad news for climate change, too. The energy needs of data centers already account for about 1% of global electricity consumption, and that will only continue to increase.
In June, I reported on findings posted online by the lab of Kathy Niakan, PhD, a developmental biologist in London, which showed that the gene-editing tool CRISPR could make large, accidental edits when used in human embryos.
The paper from Niakan’s lab has yet to be peer reviewed, but the results were significant enough to catch the attention of other gene-editing scientists. As one expert, Fyodor Urnov, PhD, told me at the time, “This is a restraining order for all genome editors to stay the living daylights away from embryo editing.” …
Almost as soon as the coronavirus appeared in the news, so too did speculation that it was purposefully engineered, the result of experimentation at one of several Wuhan laboratories. The idea that the virus, whether natural or engineered, came from a scientific facility was pushed by some politicians. The White House reportedly pressured spy agencies to look into lab links.
Most scientists agree, based on the virus’s genetics, that it probably hopped from animals to humans. On April 30, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence declared, on behalf of the 17 different organizations that make up the…
Reengineering Life is a series from OneZero about the astonishing ways genetic technology is changing humanity and the world around us.
The advent of CRISPR in recent years has introduced the prospect of using gene editing not only to treat disease but to prevent it altogether. By tweaking the genes of a human embryo, it would be possible to make the resulting baby — and generations to come — free of certain inherited diseases.