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Chinese Scientist Who Created Gene-Edited Babies Likely Boosted Their Intelligence

Elias Marat

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Gene-Edited Babies Intelligence

When rogue Chinese scientist He Jiankui genetically edited twin babies last year in an attempt to render them immune to HIV, he may have also altered their brains in a manner that would enhance their cognitive abilities, according to researchers familiar with the procedure.

The associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen scandalized the scientific community when he announced he had used the genetic editing tool CRISPR in hopes of making the girls — named Lulu and Nana — immune to the virus that causes AIDS, earning the reputation of “mad scientist” and “China’s Frankenstein” both at home and abroad.

However, researchers now claim that the CCR5 gene introduced to the girls’ DNA has been linked to enhanced cognition in mice as well as human recovery following a stroke, and could potentially lead to greater performance in school, according to MIT Technology Review.

HIV depends on the CCR5 gene to enter human blood cells, but studies have also shown that removing the gene from mice significantly improves their memory. In humans, when a person is missing at least one copy of the gene, they appear to do better in school, according to a new report in the journal Cell.

It remains unclear whether He Jiankui was aware of the link between CCR5 and cognition, but chances are slim that he was wholly unaware of the potential side effects his dream of HIV-free babies would have.

Don’t break out the champagne glasses to celebrate a human-engineered leap in evolution just yet – it remains too early to tell whether the effect of He’s meddling in the gene pool will have good results or bad.

While some have entertained the idea of a bioengineered, disease-immune and hyper-intelligent race of humans as some outcome of He’s experiments, critics were also quick to point out last year that his reckless toying with genetics could lead to mutations, birth defects, or long-term health consequences for the infants he hacked.

Alcino J. Silva, a neuobiologist at UCLA who uncovered CCR5’s role in memory, told Technology Review:

“The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains … The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins.”

The scientist added that the unpredictable outcome of the experiment “is why it should not be done.”

“Could it be conceivable that at one point in the future we could increase the average IQ of the population? I would not be a scientist if I said no,” Silva continued. “The work in mice demonstrates the answer may be yes. But mice are not people. We simply don’t know what the consequences will be in mucking around. We are not ready for it yet.”

In the meantime, He remains a pariah in the scientific community for his apparent disregard for basic technical and ethical principles in what the Chinese government has decried as fraudulent practices in pursuit of “personal fame and gain.

He’s poor ethics were further underscored Wednesday, when Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News reported that his study on the ethics of gene editing was withdrawn by the editors of The CRISPR Journal due to He’s failure to report multiple conflicts of interest, including his financial stake in multiple companies and his sources of funding.

Additionally, He failed to disclose that his research was being applied to actual embryos. Chief editor Rodolphe Barrangou, PhD, explained:

“The authors intentionally hid from us the fact that they were conducting clinical research on germline editing, and that babies had been born … We could not let that breach of trust stand.

The fact that their clinical work is contravening their own criteria is just unacceptable … “It is just unacceptable. You can’t have it both ways. It is important for the journal and the editorial board and the community to act when concerning issues arise and unacceptable work is done.”

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Cop Gave Children Weapons During Exorcism and Told Them To Shoot Demons And Intruders

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A police officer from Florida was recently arrested after he was caught performing a strange exorcism on a child holding a taser, while another child was given a gun and instructed to shoot anyone who entered the home. 37-year-old Christopher Dougherty reportedly told the two children that there were demons in the house. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Dougherty was fired from the department on an unrelated matter on the same day of his arrest, but he had worked with the sheriff’s office since 2006.

Someone tripped an alarm at the house where the incident was occurring, which prompted police to arrive on the scene. Once they got there, they saw evidence of child abuse, and decided to enter the home. Upon entering they found a young girl wearing body armor and a Kevlar helmet, lying on the ground with a rifle in a shooting position. There was also a young boy in the house who had a taser. The boy is believed to be the subject of an exorcism. Dougherty was armed with a handgun when police arrived.

The children said that Dougherty was performing an exorcism on the young boy, and told the girl that there were demons in the house, and instructed her to shoot anyone that entered.

Dougherty was detained and taken to a hospital where he was held under the Baker Act, and then arrested after he was released from the hospital a few days later. On the same day as his arrest, he was fired from the sheriff’s office, but the agency insists that his termination was related to “an unsatisfactory performance finding in a separate matter,” and had nothing to do with the exorcism. 

In a statement to Fox News, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said that he was concerned about the officer’s mental health. 

“While this deputy was terminated for a pattern of unsatisfactory performance, these are very serious criminal allegations. As law enforcement officers, we are held to the highest standards of conduct whether on duty or off duty. But we are also concerned about the deputy’s mental health,” Mina said.

It is still not entirely clear what Dougherty’s relationship was with the two children that were in his care.

The 2014 horror film “Deliver Us From Evil” is based on the true-life story of New York City Police Sgt Ralph Sarchie, who was an exorcist in his spare time. Sarchie described himself as a “demonologist” and claimed to have taken part in at least 20 exorcisms, but says that he investigated over 50 paranormal cases. “I’m a demonologist, and I’m going head to head with the devil,” Sarchie once said in an interview.

In 2001, Sarchie co-wrote the book Beware the Night about his experiences as a part-time demon hunter in New York. His book would eventually inspire the horror movie that came later.

Of course, Sarchie’s “demon hunting” activities seem to be a bit more safe and legitimate than whatever was happening inside the home of Christopher Dougherty.

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4th-grader walks to school every day to do classwork because his family can’t afford internet

Elias Marat

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A fourth-grader in Roswell, New Mexico, has been spending his days outside of his closed elementary school to access the building’s WiFi and do his classwork due to his lack of internet access at home.

With the novel coronavirus continuing to interrupt lives everywhere, this kid is proving that the global pandemic isn’t strong enough to disrupt his studies. Like other school districts across the country, students at Roswell Independent School District have had to attend online classes due to the ongoing health emergency.

Jonathon Endecott, who turns 10 next month, has always been an independent kid who enjoys his studies, and especially science. He always used to walk to school and back home when school was in session, and this is one habit that hasn’t been broken even as teachers and students stay at home.

However, like too many homes across the United States, Jonathon’s home lacks internet service. Tragically, Jonathon’s mom, Angel Endecott, lost her two jobs once the pandemic struck. And while she’s been able to return to one of her jobs, she still can’t afford internet service.

So Jonathon has been going back to his closed elementary school for the building’s WiFi connection to continue doing his classwork. And he’s been happy to do it.

“He was like, ‘Yeah, I need to be back on the school property, and I could be like a normal kid again,'” Angel explained. “Him just being outside of the building gives him that, ‘Hey, I’m at school’ feeling even though he’s not around other classmates or teachers.”

With Jonathon’s home lying just across the school’s field, his parents are happy to let him study on campus grounds during the day. “The principal, the secretary and a few teachers, they do come outside to check up on him and see if he needs anything,” Angel said.

Jonathon has also found support from local teachers in the school district, who were deeply touched by the heartbreaking site of Jonathon working outside the school so that he could access an internet connection.

One teacher shared a photo of Jonathon on Facebook after getting permission from his mother. The image was shared widely online, and eventually reached a kind person who offered to pay for Jonathon’s internet service for the next year out of their own pocket.

The teacher who posted the photo to her Facebook has since created a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for other children who lack access to the internet, which is crucial to accessing their classes.

Jonathon remains optimistic despite the challenge of not having home internet access, and is happy that he can still remain connected with his friends and classmates online. He also likes the familiarity of being at his school building, which makes the virtual experience more like being back at school.

He’s also been approaching every day with vigor and excitement, relishing the ability to get a bit of alone time at school, his mom said. Jonathon also plans to continue going back to his school even when the family gets its internet back up and running again. However, the school district will require that he has a parent with him in the future.

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Study: 1,000 Potential Alien Star Systems Could Be Watching Us From Afar

Justin MacLachlan

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Motivated by the “Pale Blue Dot” NASA photo researchers are asking the question, could other planets be looking at us just like we’re looking at them? A study of Earth’s “solar neighborhood” has found that over 1,000 different systems have the perfect angle to view Earth.

The infamous “Pale Blue Dot” photograph was suggested by astronomer Carl Sagan who implored that the Voyager 1 space probe take a picture of Earth from nearly four billion miles away. The new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, seeks to find out how many different exo-planet systems with alien life could be watching us. Ironically, the research comes from the Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute.

The studies co-author Lisa Kaltenegger stated their list focuses on main-sequence stars similar to our own sun. These solar systems may contain exoplanets, Earth-like worlds sitting in the habitable zone for life. All of the prospective systems are within 300 million light-years of Earth, close enough to see our world’s chemical traces according to the researchers.

“Let’s reverse the viewpoint to that of other stars and ask from which vantage point other observers could find Earth as a transiting planet,” Kaltenegger, the director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute said in a press release.

“If observers were out there searching, they would be able to see signs of a biosphere in the atmosphere of our Pale Blue Dot… and we can even see some of the brightest of these stars in our night sky without binoculars or telescopes.”

What makes this listing of 1,004 star systems novel and significant is they all sit in Earth’s elliptic orbit or the plane of the planets orbit around our Sun. Exoplanets traveling along this same path would be able to see the Earth according to the researchers.

To foreign observers, Earth would be a transiting planet that passes in front of its sun as the observer looks at distant stars. Theoretically, these exoplanets would be able to see Earth crossing the Sun, which sounds like a marvelous sight.

“Only a very small fraction of planets will just happen to be randomly aligned with our line of sight so we can see them transit,” co-author Joshua Pepper of Lehigh University says. “But all of the thousand stars we identified in our paper in the solar neighborhood could see our Earth transit the sun, calling their attention.”

“If we’re looking for intelligent life in the universe, that could find us and might want to get in touch,” Kaltenegger adds. “We’ve just created the star map of where we should look first.”

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