And don't try to argue that we should. I had to sit through Baby Geniuses. Never again.
Don't worry, friends, no one's going to start recreating Gattaca. But there is a team of scientists working on research for something called the Cognitive Genome Project, which seeks to explain the genetic markers for intelligence. How successful could they be? AsapSCIENCE and special guest Jake from Vsauce3 explain the basics.Read More
Identifying a gene is not the same as inventing, says a Supreme Court that can barely keep from rolling its eyes.
The U.S. Supreme Court has handed down some truly weird and sometimes downright awful decisions recently -- the "corporations have civil rights just like people do" debacle springs to mind -- but it's good to know that they don't always go against the individual while reviewing important cases. In a unanimous decision today, the Supreme Court ruled that naturally occurring human genes may not be patented, ending a dispute over intellectual property of genes that are used to detect early signs of certain cancers. So now we can all find out our cancer risk without having to pay exorbitant fees! You know, other than the ones we'd have to pay to address those risks. Those fees are still pretty exorbitant.Read More
When a class of animal is made up of only one gender, those animals tend to go extinct. That's not the case with the bdelloid rotifers, which have been exclusively female for around 80 million years. Just like we learned in Jurassic Park, life finds a way. For the bdelloids, that way is by hijacking the DNA of other species for its own benefit. Clever girl.Read More
DARPA is hoping to develop a new, far-fetched technology that will be able to record the modifications made to a gene, similar to how "track changes" records versions of a Word document. And yes, there is a conveniently pronounceable acronym for this effort: CLIO, the Chronicle of Lineage Indicative of Origins. In their own words, the project is: “multidisciplinary research proposals in the area of genomic and proteomic technologies that can continuously and persistently record specific natural or human promulgated environmental, physical and genomic events within the genetic or epigenetic systems of microorganisms.” Elucidating, no? (No.)Read More
The U.S. federal government has declared in a recently issued brief that naturally occurring genes should not be subject to patents, backing up a District Court judge who in March had struck down several attempts to patent human genes associated with cancer. While the impact of the government's brief should not be exaggerated -- it's not clear whether it will be implemented as policy by the U.S. Patent Office, which would have a major impact on the pharmaceutical and biotech industries -- it is a surprise. Law professor and patent watcher Dennis Crouch writes that "Last month, I heard a rumor that Obama administration science and legal advisors outside of the USPTO supported Judge Sweet's ruling [invalidating the patents]. At the time I disregarded that suggestion as unlikely. I was wrong."Read More
Singularity Hub has a fascinating interview with Dr. David Koepsell, a J.D./Ph.D. who specializes in writing about the intersection between ethics and emerging technology. Koepsell's book, Who Owns You?, is currently being adapted into a documentary by filmmaker Taylor Roesch.
In short: Thanks to patents granted beginning in the early 20th century and a key 1980 Supreme Court case, Diamond v. Chakrabarty, both human genes and genetically modified organisms are patentable. According to the New York Times, roughly 20 percent of human genes have been patented, thanks to a blanket of more than 40,000 patents.Read More