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

Reengineering Life

In Future Human. More on Medium.

Reengineering Life

The resulting crop could be more sustainable than current varieties

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

Thanks to selective breeding over the course of some 9,000 years, humans were able to transform an ancient wild grass with dinky cobs and a handful of kernels into the sweet, juicy corn we know today.

More recently, scientists have used genetic engineering to further transform the crop, resulting in pest-resistant corn. Now, researchers think gene editing — which is far more precise than traditional genetic engineering — could improve corn even more. …


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…


Reengineering Life

She’s the first endangered North American species to be cloned

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

A black-footed ferret named Willa died more than 30 years ago, but now her DNA lives on through her clone, Elizabeth Ann. Black-footed ferrets are one of the most endangered species in the United States, and Elizabeth Ann may be key to saving her species from extinction.

Created from a few of Willa’s frozen cells, Elizabeth Ann was born on December 10, 2020. She represents the first successful attempt by scientists to clone an endangered North…


Reengineering Life

The lab-grown organoids are helping us understand the modern brain

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

To study how the human brain evolved, scientists have relied on fossilized skulls from our ancient ancestors. These have given us clues about how we differ from our predecessors — that Neanderthal brains were more elongated than our modern ones, for instance — but they can tell only so much. Now, tiny blobs of lab-grown tissue that resemble Neanderthal brains may be able to help fill in some of the gaps.

Researchers at the University of…


Reengineering Life

An ‘Apollo Program’ could protect the population from man-made and natural biological threats

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 2015, a report by a group called the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, made up of former members of Congress and past government appointees, warned that the United States was not prepared for a biological threat. The Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed that grim prediction. Already, more than 400,000 Americans have died, and one model predicts that deaths could surge to 630,000 or more by June. …


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…


Reengineering Life

Research in mice shows promise for treating progeria, a disease that causes rapid aging and early death

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.

Now, scientists have successfully corrected this misspelling in mice that have the disease…


Reengineering Life

United Therapeutics reveals its plans to perform the transplants in an exclusive interview with Future Human

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

Every day in the United States, 17 people die waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. To address this crisis, one biotech company is turning to an unlikely source: pigs. Maryland-based United Therapeutics says it plans to begin transplanting organs from genetically modified pigs into people as soon as this year.

“We’re right on that cusp. We’re looking to get into humans within the next year or two,” said David Ayares, PhD, in an exclusive interview with…


REENGINEERING LIFE

Emerging technologies like CRISPR raise new possibilities for militaries

A photo of Chinese soldiers juxtaposed against photos of a DNA strip and a dropper with the text Reengineering Life

Reengineering Life is a series from Future Human about the astonishing ways genetic technology is changing humanity and the world around us.

China has reportedly conducted tests on members of its armed forces in hopes of developing soldiers with “biologically enhanced capabilities,” according to John Ratcliffe, the United States’ top intelligence official.

“China poses the greatest threat to America today,” warned Ratcliffe, who’s been President Trump’s director of national intelligence since May, in a Wall Street Journal commentary published last week that outlined the claims.

Radcliffe didn’t elaborate on what kind of biological enhancements the Chinese government is testing on…

Future Human

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

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