Germany debates CRISPR

leopoldina

Germany stands out as the European country most interested in fostering an informed debate on CRISPR many uses. Today an interdisciplinary group of experts from the German National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina) has published a Discussion Paper entitled “Ethical and legal assessment of genome editing in research on human cells”.  Experiments involving human embryos are prohibited by law in the country but the document suggests a possible compromise. Research should be permitted on “orphaned” embryos created for reproductive purposes but no longer going to be used for reproduction. In February the German academy co-organized a meeting on edited plants, discussing what kind of regulation would be suitable. In 2005 they published a statement on “The opportunities and limits of genome editing” and another one on molecular plant breeding. According to a Leopoldina official press-release, the annual assembly “will be intensively addressing the topic of genome editing” later this year.

Six questions for the YouTuber singing CRISPR

The best explanations of CRISPR ever heard in 413 words, or 4 minutes and half of listening, is not an article from a prestigious science journal but a YouTube video where the wonders of the new technique of genetic modification are sung a cappella. We couldn’t not interview the author. Tim Blais was a fresh physics graduate when he turned its science-music into a professional activity by means of crowdfunding. That about CRISPR is probably his best video and has quickly become viral.    Continue reading

Light bulb or bomb?

 

augias bomba atomicaCRISPR ’s debut in the cultural programming of the Italian television occurred at “Quante storie”, a 30 minutes book show aired by the public broadcasting company (Rai 3, 23 March 2017). It went with a genuine interest into understanding the science of genome editing and many questions from the classic repertoire concerning biotechnology, from worries about economic interests at play (but if we want drugs, the pharma industry must be there) to the risk of using the new technique for eugenics purposes (the long shadow of Nazism still makes us think blond children would be favored). Continue reading

The art of learning from microbes

ecoli-1184pxBy Antonio Polito

Do you remember Dolly, the sheep cloned 20 years ago? I was one of the many going on pilgrimage to visit her in its golden prison at the Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh. And like other reporters I was worried while talking with Dolly’s “father” Ian Wilmut, about practical and ethical implications of the breakthrough, which appeared huge at the time. Media were boiling with awe and outrage: is human cloning the next step? It would be evil or blessing? Are we playing God?  Continue reading