Blog Posts (74)
May 20, 2016
Everyone is familiar with Roundup®, arguably the most well-known of any herbicide in the world and my favorite gardening tool. What may be less well known is that Monsanto has created a line of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are resistant to their famous herbicide. Called Roundup Ready®, soybeans in this product line can essentially take a bath in Roundup and still grow up to... // Read More »
May 20, 2016
It has been reported that last week, a group of scientists met in a closed-door session at Harvard Medical School to discuss concrete steps and industry involvement to achieve the goal of synthesizing—creating in the laboratory—an entire human genome, and putting it into a cell, within 10 years. Reportedly led by Harvard’s George Church, a leader and chief enthusiast of the technical prospects of genetic... // Read More »
April 29, 2016
Earlier this week, Mark McQuain posted a nice summary of the recently-published work by J. Craig Venter’s group to identify a “minimal genome” for a type of bacterium, the mycoplasmas, which are, as the group points out, “the simplest cells capable of autonomous growth.” Mark wondered aloud what the implications would be for our understanding of what it is to be human—how many genes do... // Read More »
April 26, 2016
Last month, Science published the results of an ongoing experiment conceived to determine, among other things, the minimum number of genes necessary for viability in a mycoplasma bacterium. Calling their engineered result Syn 3.0, scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) rearranged and reduced the number of genes on the single chromosome of a M. mycoides bacterium and inserted it into a different mycoplasma... // Read More »
April 21, 2016
A recent Perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine summarizes the results of several public surveys about the acceptability of gene editing. This summary, which is freely available to the general public online without a subscription, is worth a read. I think it’s limited by the fact that most of the surveys listed are old. Only two were done since 2014, and the... // Read More »
March 22, 2016
Ever since I read John Holmlund’s blog entry (HERE) on mitochondrial replacement techniques (MRT) for inherited mitochondrial diseases, I have been thinking a lot about the issue of enhancement. Almost in passing, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) stipulated that MRT would not be a meaningful example of human enhancement because of the relatively limited genetic information in mitochondria. Recall that mitochondria are the energy power... // Read More »
March 3, 2016
Last week, I wrote about the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recent report “Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques: Ethical, Social, and Policy Considerations.” A public discussion of this report, with an accompanying webcast, has been scheduled for March 21, 2016, beginning at 1:30 pm Eastern time, in Washington, D.C. Here is a link to the webpage for the meeting. That page includes a separate link to register to... // Read More »
March 1, 2016
This past summer, researchers at RPI’s Cognitive Science Department programmed three Nao robots to see if they could pass a test of self-awareness. Modeled after the classic “Wisemen Puzzle”, the robots were asked whether or not they had been given a “dumbing pill” (in this case, a tap on their head, which muted their verbal output) or a placebo. The test not only required the... // Read More »
February 25, 2016
Three weeks ago, the Institute of Medicine released its FDA-requested report “Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques: Ethical, Social, and Policy Considerations.” The report may be read online, or a prepublication pdf copy may be downloaded for free, at this link. In view is the so-called “3-parent babies” technology, intended to treat inherited diseases of the mitochondria, components (called “organelles”) of a cell that are responsible for producing... // Read More »
February 4, 2016
This blog has carried several posts about the ethical issues surrounding gene editing in humans. The next round of public discussions is scheduled for next week, Feb. 11-12. The National Academies of Science and Medicine have been holding meetings to address the state of the science and the attendant ethical issues. In December, a first meeting was held in Washington, DC. That meeting produced a... // Read More »
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November 8, 2012 6:12 pm
Performance-boosting drugs, powered prostheses and wearable computers are coming to an office near you — but experts warned in a new report Wednesday that too little thought has been given to the implications of a superhuman workplace.
July 17, 2012 4:01 pm
It is commonly accepting that doping in sports should be strictly prohibited. But Oxford bio-ethicist Julian Savulescu disagrees. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE on the eve of the London Olympics, he explains why bans are unrealistic and demands an open market for doping.
June 9, 2012 9:00 pm
At high schools across the United States, pressure over grades and competition for college admissions are encouraging students to abuse prescription stimulants, according to interviews with students, parents and doctors. Pills that have been a staple in some college and graduate school circles are going from rare to routine in many academically competitive high schools, where teenagers say they get them from friends, buy them from student dealers or fake symptoms to their parents and doctors to get prescriptions.
June 4, 2012 12:11 am
Over the next decade, new implantable technologies will fundamentally alter the social landscape. We are fast approaching a milestone in the eons-long relationship between human beings and their technology. Families once gathered around the radio like it was a warm fireplace. Then boom boxes leapt onto our shoulders. The Sony Walkman climbed into our pockets and sank its black foam tentacles into our ears. The newest tools are creeping still closer: They will soon come inside and make themselves at home under our skin—some already have.
May 30, 2012 1:58 pm
It was getting late, but he had finally finished all three of his assignments. If he’d been asked, Paul Kessler, ‘11, would’ve said that he’d been studying for only 45 minutes. However, the clock told a different story: two hours had passed. The Adderall worked. That night, Kessler had purchased Adderall, an ADHD drug, without a prescription — something that many college students across the nation are doing in order to focus.
April 12, 2012 11:42 pm
Just 26 and with a creditable — if unexceptional — pedigree in amateur wrestling, Newell is not so fearsome that professional fighters should cower. Yet the list of fighters who have canceled or rejected bouts with him is about two dozen long, and the reason is clear: it can be difficult to persuade able-bodied athletes to fight a man with one hand.
Sport needs to re-think both disability and enhancement.
March 10, 2012 9:35 am
Evan Selinger considers the ramifications of using apps to improve our habits. And also whether willpower as we normally think about it even exists. #bioethics #neuroethics #brain #philosophy
March 1, 2012 12:25 am
A British ethics group has launched a debate on the ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies that tap into the brain and could bring super-human strength, highly enhanced concentration or thought-controlled weaponry. #bioethics
February 24, 2012 12:26 am
In 1850, the average human lifespan was 43 years. Now it’s closer to 80. How high could it go? And what effect will the ever-increasing lifespan of humans have upon society? #bioethics #aging
February 21, 2012 8:28 pm
Opposition to the technologies that make life longer, healthier, and happier creates strange bedfellows argues Ronald Bailey. #bioethics #politics