Scientists Use CRISPR To Put Genes From Alligator Into Catfish

Millions of fish are farmed in the US every year, but many of them die from infections. In theory, genetically engineering fish with genes that protect them from disease could reduce waste and help limit the environmental impact of fish farming. A team of scientists have attempted to do just that—by inserting an alligator gene into the genomes of catfish.

Americans go through a lot of catfish. In 2021, catfish farms in the US produced 307 million pounds (139 million kilogram) of the fish. “On a per-pound basis, anywhere from 60 to 70% of US aquaculture is … catfish production,” says Rex Dunham, who works on the genetic improvement of catfish at Auburn University in Alabama.

But catfish farming is also a great breeding ground for infections. From the time farmed fish are newly hatched to the time they are harvested, around 40% of the animals worldwide die from various diseases, says Dunham.

Could the new genetic modification help?

The alligator gene, which Dunham’s research turned up as a potential answer, codes for a protein called cathelicidin. The protein is antimicrobial, says Dunham—it’s thought to help protect alligators from developing infections in the wounds they sustain during their aggressive fights with each other. Dunham wondered whether animals that have the gene artificially inserted into their genomes might be more resistant to diseases.

Dunham and his colleagues also wanted to go a step further and ensure that the resulting transgenic fish couldn’t reproduce. That’s because genetically modified animals have the potential to wreak havoc in the wild should they escape from farms, outcompeting their wild counterparts for food and habitat.

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Scientists Have Successfully Reversed Signs of Aging in Mice for the First Time

Two research groups in the US were able to stop mice from getting old by fixing their DNA.

In a recent study published in Cell on Jan. 12, Harvard scientists showed that they could manipulate and reverse the aging process in mice by generating DNA repairs.

The results of a 13-year, international study show for the first time that breakdown in epigenetic information accelerates aging in mice and that repairing the epigenome can reverse those signs of aging.

“For about the past 50 years, popular theory has held that the process of aging is caused in large part by an accumulation of mutation. There’s growing evidence, however, that aging has a significant epigenetic component. That is, the process by which stretches of DNA or the genes are turned on and off,” said the paper’s senior author, David Sinclair, professor of genetics at the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research.

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DNA Used to Uncover 70s Serial Killer Who Raped and Strangled College Student in Ohio

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announced the indictment of Ralph Howell for the rape and murder of Cheryl Thompson in 1978.

Howell was killed in an automobile accident in 1985.

Howell was posthumously indicted for one count of Aggravated Murder, and one count of Rape.

On March 24, 1978, Cheryl Thompson went missing after leaving her home to meet her boyfriend at a bar in Oakley.

On April 8, 1978, Thompson’s body was discovered along the bank of the Little Miami River by an Ohio Department of Natural Resources officer. Thompson’s cause of death was asphyxia caused by strangulation. It was also determined Thompson had been raped.

Physical evidence was collected from Thompson’s body and stored at the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office. However, due to the forensic limitations of the time, the investigation quickly went cold. Loveland police officers and agents at the Bureau of Criminal Investigations never stopped investigating.

This year, the DNA sample taken from Thompson’s body was sent to a third-party genealogy company in hopes of developing a suspect. The results narrowed this DNA sample to a specific family tree. Ralph Howell was included in these results.

Further investigation showed Howell was arrested in 1983 for abduction. In that incident, Howell picked a woman up on the side of the road and offered to drive her home. Once in the vehicle, Howell placed a rope around the victim’s neck and began to strangle her. He told her he wanted to have sex with her. The victim was able to fight Howell off and escape from the vehicle.

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China’s Collection of DNA Data Linked to Bioweapons, Religious Persecution, Organ Harvesting

Police in China’s Fuzhou City recently bragged about solving a break-in by conducting a DNA test of a blood smear from a mosquito that allegedly stung the burglar. However, the incident, which made global headlines, brings to the fore the threats associated with the exploitation of DNA databases.

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ambitious efforts to collect genomic data—from inside and outside of China—to solve crimes and maintain social control have already been raising concerns for years.

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center has warned that the CCP, for years, has been collecting American healthcare and DNA data, through both legal and illegal means. U.S. officials recently said that such sensitive data might be potentially exploited by American enemies to create targeted biological weapons.

“There are now weapons under development, and developed, that are designed to target specific people,” Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) reportedly said at the Aspen Security Forum in July this year.

“That’s what this is, where you can actually take someone’s DNA … their medical profile, and you can target a biological weapon that will kill that person or take them off the battlefield or make them inoperable.”

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Ancient DNA analysis sheds light on the early peopling of South America

The Americas were the last continent to be inhabited by humans. An increasing body of archaeological and genomic evidence has hinted to a complex settlement process. This is especially true for South America, where unexpected ancestral signals have raised perplexing scenarios for the early migrations into different regions of the continent.

Many unanswered questions still persist, such as whether the first humans migrated south along the Pacific coast or by some other route. While there is archaeological evidence for a north-to-south migration during the initial peopling of the Americas by ancient Indigenous peoples, where these ancient humans went after they arrived has remained elusive.

Using DNA from two ancient human individuals unearthed in two different archaeological sites in northeast Brazil—Pedra do Tubarão and Alcobaça—and powerful algorithms and genomic analyses, Florida Atlantic University researchers in collaboration with Emory University have unraveled the deep demographic history of South America at the regional level with some unexpected and surprising results.

Not only do researchers provide new genetic evidence supporting existing archaeological data of the north-to-south migration toward South America, they also have discovered migrations in the opposite direction along the Atlantic coast—for the first time. The work provides the most complete genetic evidence to date for complex ancient Central and South American migration routes.

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Is it Possible to Patent Genetically-Modified Humans?

“When we’re modifying the genome of an organism we can put our signature, our name, into the genome.” – “What is God? God creates. Well, we can create now.” – “We deserve to be credited for our work. We have lobbyists in politics and the courts to make sure the patenting and owning of parts of the human genome continues.”

Not word for word but, these are recollections by Dr. Carrie Madej of remarks made by Dr. Craig Venter of the Human Genome Project during a speech in 2014.  Dr. Venter also talked about how vaccines could be useful to modify people’s genomes.  Dr. Madej discussed this during an interview, watch HERE (starting at 45 mins).

In 2010, on creating the world’s first synthetic life form Dr. Venter said, “the achievement heralds the dawn of a new era in which new life is made to benefit humanity, starting with bacteria that churn out biofuels, soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and even manufacture vaccines.” Dr. Venter’s technology paved the way for designer organisms to be built rather than be allowed to naturally evolve, and he owns the patent.

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Don’t Even Go There

A policy of deliberate ignorance has corrupted top scientific institutions in the West. It’s been an open secret for years that prestigious journals will often reject submissions that offend prevailing political orthodoxies—especially if they involve controversial aspects of human biology and behavior—no matter how scientifically sound the work might be. The leading journal Nature Human Behaviour recently made this practice official in an editorial effectively announcing that it will not publish studies that show the wrong kind of differences between human groups.

American geneticists now face an even more drastic form of censorship: exclusion from access to the data necessary to conduct analyses, let alone publish results. Case in point: the National Institutes of Health now withholds access to an important database if it thinks a scientist’s research may wander into forbidden territory. The source at issue, the Database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP), is an exceptional tool, combining genome scans of several million individuals with extensive data about health, education, occupation, and income. It is indispensable for research on how genes and environments combine to affect human traits. No other widely accessible American database comes close in terms of scientific utility.

My colleagues at other universities and I have run into problems involving applications to study the relationships among intelligence, education, and health outcomes. Sometimes, NIH denies access to some of the attributes that I have just mentioned, on the grounds that studying their genetic basis is “stigmatizing.” Sometimes, it demands updates about ongoing research, with the implied threat that it could withdraw usage if it doesn’t receive satisfactory answers. In some cases, NIH has retroactively withdrawn access for research it had previously approved.

Note that none of the studies I am referring to include inquiries into race or sex differences. Apparently, NIH is clamping down on a broad range of attempts to explore the relationship between genetics and intelligence.

What is NIH’s justification? Studies of intelligence do not pose any greater threat to the dignity of their participants than research based on non-genetic factors. With the customary safeguards in place, research activities such as genetically predicting an individual’s academic performance need be no more “stigmatizing” than predicting academic performance based on an individual’s family structure during childhood.

The cost of this censorship is profound. On a practical level, many of the original data-generating studies were set up with the explicit goal of understanding risk factors for various diseases. Since intelligence and education are also risk factors for many of these diseases, denying researchers usage of these data stymies progress on the problems the studies were funded to address. Scientific research should not have to justify itself on those grounds, anyway. Perhaps the most elemental principle of science is that the search for truth is worthwhile, regardless of its practical benefits.

NIH’s responsibility is to protect the safety and privacy of research participants, not to enforce a party line. Indeed, no apparent legal basis exists for these restrictions. NIH enforces hundreds of regulations, but you will search in vain for any grounds on which to ban “stigmatizing” research—whatever that even means.

The restrictions appear to be invented to impede research on certain topics that anonymous bureaucrats with ideological motivations have decided are out of bounds. It’s impossible to know whether senior NIH officials have instigated the restrictions or merely accepted them tacitly. Perhaps they are unaware of the problem; officials far down the bureaucratic ladder are responsible for approving specific applications.

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Federal Research On Manipulating Brains And Rewriting DNA Should Worry Us All

The future of evolution is now in our hands. Or rather, the godlike power to alter biology rests in a few scientists’ hands, and we’re all going to pay for it, one way or another. The U.S. government is pouring billions of dollars into understanding genetics and the human brain, and most consequentially, how to manipulate those systems.

Last week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched its “BRAIN 2.0” initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnology), ramping up an existing program started eight years ago. Comparable to the Human Genome Project in scope and scale, BRAIN 2.0 grants $600 million to fully map our 86 billion neurons and their uncounted connections. The project is expected to reach a grand total cost of $5 billion by 2026.

In theory, once scientists have created this detailed brain atlas in silicothey can directly alter neural function using digital devices. The director of the BRAIN Initiative, John Ngai, exhibits a troubling fixation on this method.

In a recent interview with Stat News, Ngai noted two concrete results of his current neuro-mapping efforts. One is an advanced brain-computer interface — implanted last year at the University of California, San Francisco — that allows for astounding thought-to-text communication. The other is a major breakthrough in deep brain stimulation at Baylor University, where electrodes are implanted to alter mood and behavior, relieving depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder

Ngai’s cyborg obsession is shared by his close government partner, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where “man-computer symbiosis” has been a longstanding paradigm. The defense agency’s involvement in the BRAIN Initiative is open and well documented. However, beyond the NIH’s declared mission to heal, our top military minds also have a deep interest in human enhancement. 

“DARPA has been a pioneer in brain-machine interface technology since the 1970s, but we began investing heavily in the early 2000s,” boasted Justin Sanchez, the director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. “We’ve laid the groundwork for a future in which advanced brain interface technologies will transform how people live and work.” 

This transformation involves neural implants, to an extent, but also non-invasive devices, such as wearable neuro-bands or skull caps. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics,” said DARPA program manager Phillip Alvelda, whose goals include “Bridging the Bio-Electronic Divide” and developing a “High-Resolution, Implantable Neural Interface.”

If successful, the atlas created by BRAIN 2.0 will be a crucial bridge across this “bio-electronic divide.” The neural territory will be mapped and ready to conquer. 

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Why are hard drive companies investing in DNA data storage?

The research community is excited about the potential of DNA to function as long-term archival storage. That’s largely because it’s extremely dense, chemically stable for tens of thousands of years, and comes in a format we’re unlikely to forget how to read. While there has been some interesting progress, efforts have mostly stayed in the research community because of the high costs and extremely slow read and write speeds. These are problems that need to be solved before DNA-based storage can be practical.

So we were surprised to hear that storage giant Seagate had entered into a collaboration with a DNA-based storage company called Catalog. To find out how close the company’s technology is to being useful, we talked to Catalog’s CEO, Hyunjun Park. Park indicated that Catalog’s approach is counterintuitive on two levels: It doesn’t store data the way you’d expect, and it isn’t focusing on archival storage at all.

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Chinese scientists claim to have engineered the world’s first mouse with fully reprogrammed genes

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) claim to have found a novel technique for programmable chromosome fusion successfully producing mice with genetic changes “that occur on a million-year evolutionary scale” in the laboratory.

The findings could shed light on how chromosome rearrangements—the tidy packages of organized genes provided in equal numbers by each parent, which align and trade or blend traits to produce offspring—influence evolution, reported Phys.org on Thursday.

“The laboratory house mouse has maintained a standard 40-chromosome karyotype—or the full picture of an organism’s chromosomes—after more than 100 years of artificial breeding,” said Li Zhikun, a researcher at CAS’s Institute of Zoology.

“Over longer time scales, however, karyotype changes caused by chromosome rearrangements are common. Rodents have 3.2 to 3.5 rearrangements per million years, whereas primates have 1.6,” added Li, co-first author of the study.

The mouse, known as Xiao Zhu, or “Little Bamboo,” was the world’s first mammal with fully reprogrammed genes, according to the South China Morning Post.

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