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Future Human
Life at the edge of science. A new publication from Medium.


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Reengineering Life

The research reignites a debate over embryo research

Reengineering Life is a column from Future Human about the ways humans are using biology to reprogram our bodies and the world around us.

Under a microscope, the little balls of cells look like five-day-old human embryos, known as blastocysts. They’re similar in size, shape, and structure. They even have the three distinct cell types that exist in real blastocysts — the kind that forms the embryo itself, another that makes the placenta, and a third type that gives rise to the sac in which the embryo will develop.

But there’s one key difference between these embryo look-alikes and natural…

Reengineering Life

A gene therapy injection eliminated pain in mice

Reengineering Life is a column from Future Human about the ways humans are using biology to reprogram our bodies and the world around us.

In 2006, scientists described the curious case of a Pakistani boy who seemed immune to pain. The 10-year-old street performer amazed audiences by walking on burning coals and stabbing himself with knives without flinching.

His resistance to pain later led him to jump off a building to impress his friends. Tragically, he died from the resulting injuries. He had just turned 14.

Several of the boy’s relatives had never experienced pain either. When researchers collected samples…

The Color of Climate

California was once the leading producer of oil and gas in the United States, and is slow to move away from fossil fuels

This is The Color of Climate, a weekly column from Future Human exploring how climate change and other environmental issues uniquely impact the future of communities of color.

On the outskirts of Bakersfield, California, it doesn’t take much effort to stumble upon an oil or gas well.

“You don’t have to drive far, especially once you get out into those rural areas,” Julie Solis, who lives in the city, tells Future Human. “The rural communities are really where they’re getting hit the hardest.”

Two of Solis’ four children attend school at Bakersfield College, which is on the edge of town…

Everyday chemicals are threatening the future of human fertility

Baby figures in petri dish to symbolize IVF.
Baby figures in petri dish to symbolize IVF.

Many men today have just half the number of sperm their grandfathers had. The shocking discovery was published in 2017 by Shanna Swan, PhD, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

After analyzing 185 studies involving nearly 45,000 healthy men, Swan and her team found that over the past four decades, sperm counts among men in Western countries had dropped by more than 50%.

Why the huge decline? Swan says many factors are at play — alcohol use, smoking, body weight, and a lack of exercise are a few. But…

The Phoenix

It’s time the U.S. government made it official: We’re in the midst of a major crisis, and we need to act now

Future Human is partnering with The Phoenix, a newsletter by climate reporter and meteorologist Eric Holthaus. Every two weeks, we’ll feature new stories about climate science, justice, and radical change. As Eric says, we were born at just the right time to change everything. Subscribe here.

We are at a critical moment in the entirety of human history

According to NASA data, last year was the hottest year in modern record-keeping — and probably the hottest our planet has been since agriculture was invented about 12,000 years ago. …

It’s based on the theory that the benefits of psychedelic plants and fungi come from a combination of chemicals working together

Whether aiming to enhance spiritual growth or brighten the music at Lollapalooza, people have been combining cannabis and psilocybin “magic” mushrooms recreationally for ages. But a small biotech startup called CaaMTech Inc. just became the first to patent the idea.

The patent covers a whole range of cannabinoids — chemical compounds produced by marijuana plants, such as THC or CBD — mixed with a bevy of chemicals related to psilocybin mushrooms. It details myriad formulations, including dried powder, pills, gummies, and edibles, with a blanket of proposed applications for psychological disorders. The company, based in the Seattle suburb of Issaquah…

How do we begin to give back what decades of fossil fuel polluters have taken away?

Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice.
Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice.

By Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt, Hot Take

Future Human has partnered with Hot Take, a podcast hosted by Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt, to share exclusive climate coverage and conversations with key figures leading the fight for human survival.

Maxine Burkett, a law professor at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, coined the term in a paper she wrote on the subject in 2009. In a nutshell, “climate reparations” translates the understanding of climate change as a monumental injustice that needs to be addressed into law and policy.

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, a lawyer and the former North America…

A bioengineered uterus could eliminate the need for risky transplants and make pregnancy an option for trans women

Bioengineer Mats Hellström, PhD, spends most of his days working with mice, rats, and petri dishes full of cells. Although he sees no patients, his work has the potential to impact the lives of thousands, if not millions, of women diagnosed with infertility: He’s working toward creating a lab-grown uterus.

Hellström, an associate professor in bioengineering and organ regeneration at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, originally studied the regeneration of the nervous system, but he became interested in the reproductive system after meeting Mats Brännström, MD, PhD, a pioneer in the field of uterine transplantation. …

Reengineering Life

Experts Eric Lander and Alondra Nelson will carry out an agenda focused on social justice and equality

Reengineering Life is a column from Future Human about the ways humans are using biology to reprogram our bodies and the world around us.

At a press conference on January 16, four days before his inauguration, incoming President Joe Biden announced the nomination of several members of his White House science team. Biden gave the top job of science adviser to geneticist and mathematician Eric Lander, PhD, and for the first time in history elevated the position to the president’s Cabinet.

The message was clear: Science will take a front seat in the Biden administration.

Lander will serve as director…

North American cities are preparing to source water from toilets and sinks

In August 2020, a group of 50 beer lovers in Calgary—along with drinkers videoconferenced in from Edmonton and Ottawa — had a communal sip of a limited-edition brew of Village Brewery’s Blonde. This one-off was made from purified water that had only recently been wastewater flowing from the city’s toilets and sinks.

“There wasn’t a comment from a single person who said that the beer tasted strange or funny,” says Leland Jackson, PhD, scientific director of Advancing Canadian Wastewater Assets, which runs research projects out of a Calgary wastewater treatment facility and partnered with Village Brewery and water tech company…

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