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Scientists win historic Nobel chemistry prize for ‘genetic scissors’

BY PAUL RINCON BBC SCIENCE

Two scientists have been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing the tools to edit DNA. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna are the first two women to share the prize, which honours their work on the technology of genome editing. Their discovery, known as Crispr-Cas9 “genetic scissors”, is a way of making specific and precise changes to the DNA contained in living cells. They will split the prize money of 10 million krona (£861,200; $1,110,400). Biological chemist Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede, commented: “The ability to cut DNA where you want has revolutionised the life sciences.” Continue Reading →

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Quest to use CRISPR against disease gains ground

BY HEIDI LEDFORD
NATURE

The prospect of using the popular genome-editing tool CRISPR to treat a host of diseases in people is moving closer to reality.

Medical applications of CRISPR–Cas9 had a banner year in 2019. The first results trickled in from trials testing the tool in people, and more trials launched. In the coming years, researchers are looking ahead to more sophisticated applications of CRISPR genome editing that could lay the foundation for treating an array of diseases, from blood disorders to hereditary blindness. Continue Reading →

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There Still Aren’t Any Rules Preventing Rogue Scientists From Making Gene-Edited Babies

BY EMILY MULLIN
MEDIUM / ONE-ZERO
Around this time last November, Chinese scientist He Jiankui stunned the world when he revealed the birth of the first known gene-edited babies. Working in relative secrecy, he had used CRISPR to modify human embryos in the lab and then established pregnancies with those embryos. Twin girls with edited genomes were born as a result.
The scientific community’s condemnation of He was harsh and swift. He had edited the germline, making a heritable genetic change. There were safety questions about the effects on the twins, and he had not meant to fix a genetic defect or prevent disease. Instead, he tweaked a gene in an attempt to bestow an uncommon, protective genetic trait: resistance to HIV.
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This microbe no longer needs to eat food to grow, thanks to a bit of genetic engineering

BY ROBERT F SERVICE
SCIENCE MAGAZINE
Synthetic biologists have performed a biochemical switcheroo. They’ve re-engineered a bacterium that normally eats a diet of simple sugars into one that builds its cells by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), much like plants. The work could lead to engineered microbes that suck CO2 out of the air and turn it into medicines and other high-value compounds. Continue Reading →

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Cops Now Using Warrants To Gain Access To DNA Services’ Entire Databases

BY TIM CUSHING
TECHDIRT
Cops have discovered a new source of useful third-party records: DNA databases. Millions of people have voluntarily handed over personal information to a number of services in exchange for info on medical markers or distant family members.

Investigators are submitting DNA samples from cold cases in hopes of tracking down criminals who’ve managed to evade them for years. It has led to the closing of some cases, which is all agencies need to argue for continued access to DNA samples from millions of users. Continue Reading →

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The DNA database used to find the Golden State Killer is a national security leak waiting to happen

BY ANTONIO REGALADO MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW

A private DNA
ancestry database that’s been used by police to catch criminals is a
security risk from which a nation-state could steal DNA data on a
million Americans, according to security researchers. Security flaws in the service, called GEDmatch,
not only risk exposing people’s genetic health information but could
let an adversary such as China or Russia create a powerful biometric
database useful for identifying nearly any American from a DNA sample. GEDMatch,
which crowdsources DNA profiles, was created by genealogy enthusiasts
to let people search for relatives and is run entirely by volunteers. It
shows how a trend toward sharing DNA data online can create privacy
risks affecting everyone, even people who don’t choose to share their
own information. “You
can replace your credit card number, but you can’t replace your
genome,” says Peter Ney, a postdoctoral researcher in computer science
at the University of Washington. Continue Reading →

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New federal rules limit police searches of family tree DNA databases

BY JOCELYN KAISER
SCIENCE
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released new rules yesterday governing when police can use genetic genealogy to track down suspects in serious crimes—the first-ever policy covering how these databases, popular among amateur genealogists, should be used in law enforcement attempts to balance public safety and privacy concerns. Continue Reading →

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Russian biologist plans more CRISPR-edited babies

BY DAVID SYRANOSKI
NATURE
A Russian scientist says he is planning to produce gene-edited babies, an act that would make him only the second person known to have done this. It would also fly in the face of the scientific consensus that such experiments should be banned until an international ethical framework has agreed on the circumstances and safety measures that would justify them. Continue Reading →

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