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Scientists Want To Create Human-Monkey Chimeras For “Research”

The monkeys in Douglas Munoz’s Kingston lab look like other monkeys. The only thing separating the macaques from their unaltered lab mates is the elevated level of a specific human protein implanted inside their brains, proteins that accumulate in the brains of humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

Munoz, Canada Research Chair in neuroscience at Queen’s University, has reported his work using brain molecules. Others are implanting monkeys with fragments of human brain tissue extracted from people who died with Alzheimer’s.

Now, however, some are going further, and proposing the creation of human-monkey chimeras — part-human beings with entire portions of the brain, like, say, the hippocampus, entirely human derived.

For Munoz, the idea of biologically humanizing large portions of a monkey’s brain is  seriously unnerving. “To be honest, it just really ethically scares me,” he said.

In April, Chinese researchers announced they had inserted  a human brain gene into monkey embryos, a gene critical for human brain development. “This is an important step,” says Feng Zhang, a synthetic biologist who was not involved in the study, but who has helped to develop CRISPR technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “It shows that the system is working.”

The race is already on to create more CRISPR-modified monkeys, and with greater reliability. Zhang and his colleagues are working to optimize the technology for primate cells, in order to boost mutation efficiency.

The feat was applauded by some researchers who said it would help them to recreate devastating human diseases in monkeys, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The ability to alter DNA with such precision is already being investigated as a way to make people resistant to HIV.

But the breakthrough is controversial, with groups opposed to animal testing warning that it could drive a rise in the use of monkeys in research. One critic said that genetic engineering gave researchers “almost limitless power to create sick animals”.

Chimeras were once only monsters out of Greek mythology. Today, stem-cell technologies and gene-editing tools like CRISPR may make the generation of these once fantastical creatures possible.

In fact, scientists are already using “xenotransplantation” techniques to create human-pig chimeras, in the hope of one day generating human organs for transplant.

Darwinists Wants Us to Create ‘Humanzee’

A new movement headed by Professor David Barash to prove evolution by breeding humans with our claimed closest relative, the chimpanzee has gained credence. A core teaching of Neo-Darwinism is that humans are simply another animal produced by evolution.

Barash believes that breeding chimps and humans “would be a terrific idea” for many reasons including to quell what he calls the most harmful “theologically-driven myth of all times: that human beings are discontinuous from the rest of the natural world, … specially created and endowed with souls, whereas ‘they’—all other creatures—were not.” 

Barish isn’t the only Darwinist who seeks to tear us down in this manner. Richard Dawkins has pushed the same noxious idea, as has the transhumanist bioethicist, James Hughes — and for the same ridiculous reason: Destroying religious faith.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:26

David P. Barash is not a fringe scientist, but a leading researcher and science popularizer. As a Professor of Psychology emeritus at the University of Washington, he has written, edited or co-authored 40 books, and over 230 scholarly articles, mostly on Darwin and Darwinism. He is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Efforts to Breed Humans and Chimps in the Past

It’s not the first time human-ape breeding experiments have been attempted. The first scientific attempt was in the mid-1920s at a laboratory, then part of French Guinea in Africa. The work was done by a leading Soviet Scientist, Professor Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov, and his son.

Ivanov attempted at least three times, without success, to inseminate female chimpanzees with human sperm. He also attempted a set of experiments involving ape sperm and humans, but was unsuccessful for several reasons. Ivanov used Negro women because they were in his day believed to be biologically closer to apes, thus, he reasoned, the experiment would more likely be successful. His belief was based on the writings of Darwin and others.

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Researchers Use CRISPR To Cure HIV In Mice

Researchers say they’re one step closer to finding a potential cure for HIV after successfully eliminating the virus in living mice for the first time.

A new study, published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, details the efforts of researchers to use the gene-editing tool CRISPR to eliminate HIV from the bodies of infected mice. While it only worked about a third of the time in the experiment, the success represents “a big step forward,” said Chen Liang, a professor of medicine at McGill University who wasn’t involved in the study.

“This observation is the first step toward showing for the first time, to my knowledge, that HIV is a curable disease,” says one of the study’s lead authors, Kamel Khalili, director of the center for neurovirology and the Comprehensive NeuroAIDS Center at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine.

Khalili, it’s worth pointing out, is the founder and principal scientific advisor of Excision BioTherapeutics, a Philadelphia-based company that uses CRISPR to treat viral diseases. Excision BioTherapeutics holds the exclusive license for the commercial application of this new therapy. Nearly 37 million people worldwide are infected with HIV-1, and more than 5,000 people are infected each day, according to UNAIDS.

So it makes sense that this team is eager to begin clinical trials, but the new research needs to be met with a hefty dose of caution. In addition to explaining the low success rate, the researchers will need to show that the CRISPR edits aren’t resulting in long-term side effects, such as cancer.

The team is already testing the therapy in non-human primates, and hoping to confirm the same results. If it can, it would open the door for human testing. 

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Patenting Cannabis – Who owns The Plant?

First of all, how can anyone or any entity obtain a patent on a living substance that grows in the wild and has been known for about 5,000 years?

In a landmark 1980 opinion, then-U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote that eligibility for patent protection does not depend on whether the substance is living or nonliving. Rather, the key question is whether the inventor has altered nature’s handiwork to the extent the resulting invention can be deemed a non-naturally occurring substance.

U.S. patent number US6630507B1US, held by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has long been a point of contention for cannabis activists. The patent covers “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants,” and since it’s filing in 1998, the patent has been the surrounded in controversy and conspiracy theories. Why would the U.S. government hold a patent for cannabis, yet continue to keep it as Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act?

Beyond the conspiracy theory of cannabis patents, the U.S. government isn’t the only company protecting intellectual property rights in cannabis. There are nearly 60,000 patents issued covering types of cannabis innovation and another 90,000 applications in process. The burgeoning marijuana industry is a gold rush for patent law firms around the country. Marijuana businesses are scrambling to protect their intellectual property rights, in a sector that until recently was relatively unprotected.

U.S. courts have ruled that the Patent and Trademark Office should treat the mundane – bicycles or can openers – and the controversial – such as birth-control devices, genetically altered mice and ammunition – the same way.

That is why all strains of flowering plants, be they tomatoes or cannabis, bud on the same even playing field.

Therefore, a patent on a particular strain of pot may be used to stop someone from growing or selling it, even in a state that has legalized weed. In theory, patent owners may sue to stop anyone from growing specific kinds of patented pot plants in any state or territory – whether or not pot is legal there.

Smaller breeders, scientists who alter naturally occurring marijuana plants for medicinal purposes, fear that bioagricultural companies like Monsanto and Syngenta will arm themselves with cannabis-based patents and deploy their considerable economic power to position themselves as dominant forces in a promising market.

The possibilities for patents in the marijuana industry are much broader than one might first assume, considering patents don’t strictly apply to strictly physical inventions. According to Knobbe Martens, an intellectual property, and technology law firm, some current areas to take into consideration for cannabis-related intellectual property rights are:

  • New and genetically modified Strains of Cannabis
  • New methods of identification and characterization of the many chemical compounds of cannabis; the detection and analysis.
  • New methods of extraction and processing.
  • New cannabinoid derived compositions
  • New consumption devices
  • New advances in marijuana as medicine
  • New innovations in cannabis cultivation

Coming soon to a lab near you? Genetically modified cannabis

When the mere mention of genetically altered foods causes your dinner guests to shift in their chairs, you’d expect a bumpy road ahead when it comes to researchers tinkering with their cannabis.

“We could make the cannabis resistant to things like mould, powdery mildew and pests without any of the regular horticultural interventions,” says Ryan Lee, founder of Chimera Genetic Resource Management, a longstanding cannabis seed company, and Chemovar Consulting, a genetic research firm that specializes in breeding and cultivar development.

“Through biotechnology, you could even change the chemical pathways in the plant,” Lee says, explaining that growers could potentially adjust CBD and THC levels much quicker than with traditional breeding methods.

When growers (generally anyone with the capacity to grown cannabis) were asked if they would genetically modify their cannabis to resist grey mold and powdery mildew, 73 percent of responding users thought it was worth it.

Gene-editing techniques, such as CRISPR-Cas9, in which geneticists can knock out certain genes in a genome to express a desired trait, has been applied to everything from apples that don’t brown to soybeans that produce more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

It’s a promising future for cannabis, but not yet within reach, said Daniela Vergara, a postdoctoral research associate researching cannabis genomics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

At the Hyasynth Biologicals laboratory in Montreal, scientists are working on the latest frontier in the cannabis business: genetically engineering the active ingredients in marijuana and then patenting them.

“Cannabis is going to be like any other commodity controlled by large technology players and agribusiness. It’s where this is headed.”

Jim Thomas, a spokesperson for technology watchdog the ETC Group

Hyasynth is part of a new wave of genetic engineering firms across Canada and the U.S., splicing and dicing molecules found in cannabis plants, hoping to create new recreational products and medicines to treat pain, cancers, insomnia, epilepsy and a host of other health problems.

“Companies are using genetic sequences taken from natural cannabis strains, altering them and building a product that will eventually disrupt natural markets in cannabis,” said Jim Thomas, a spokesperson for Val-David, Que.-based technology watchdog the ETC Group.

Companies have already obtained patents for a transgenic cannabis plant that enhances seed yields and growth and a transgenic hemp plan that’s more salt tolerant, according to government data provided to CBC News.

Other patents are pending for new genetic alterations to cannabis, including:

  • A transgenic hemp product that increases pest resistance in plants.
  • A heat-resistant, transgenic cannabis plant.
  • Drought-tolerant cannabis plants.
  • A transgenic cannabis cell that alters how the cannabis plant produces polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Blockchain technology will be used to patent cannabis

When you walk into a dispensary in any one of the 25 states where medicinal and/or recreational marijuana is legal, you’ll likely see display cases lined with a dozen or more strains of weed. Many of these strains, like Pineapple Express or Blue Dream, will sound familiar, but is the Granddaddy Purp you buy in Colorado the same stuff your guy in California is selling you?

To answer this question, a company called Medicinal Genomics is creating a repository of cannabis genomes which are stored on the Bitcoin blockchain. The company hopes that its efforts will standardize strain nomenclature so that customers always know what they’re getting while also defending the intellectual property rights of those who breed new strains of weed.

There are more than 1,400 individual strains of cannabis grown worldwide, and up to 500 known chemical compounds in a single cannabis plant, leaving a number of varieties still open to ‘discovery’.

Large growers are beginning to think about securing intellectual property rights for their strains, which became a possibility in August 2015 when the first patent for a strain of weed was filed at the US Patent Office.

As might be expected, Medicinal Genomics has sparked a race among growers to sequence their strains and register them on the blockchain. While this is not the same thing as getting a patent from the US Patent Office for that strain and thus having IP rights for that strain, it does protect that grower in the event that someone else files a patent for that particular strain.

For $600, growers can now buy a DNA purification kit for one of their plants and ship the genetic material to one of Medicinal Genomics partner labs for sequencing. Once the sequencing is done, scientists at Medical Genomics will compare the strain’s genome to a reference strain—in their case, this is Purple Kush—and record its genetic deviations from this reference to differentiate it as a unique strain.

Another company ( TheraCann ) has been working to ensure that the weed or oil you take in is legal and traceable and they have a number of products that shows how weed travels via live maps. To that end they have added these DNA tags to TruTrace Technologies blockchain-based StrainSecure database. The company began as BLOCKStrain and is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is currently traded over the counter and it does not have a token.

This partnership is, as one would assume, a no-brainer. Connecting DNA tags to the blockchain is one of the interesting ways to track almost any type of consumable – from food to candy to ganja – from farm to bowl. Interestingly, the system also protects a farmer’s intellectual property by ensuring genomes are traced.

Since the cannabis industry is new and a standard has yet to be determined for the protection of rights and validating the supply chain, growers and consumers are left to hope that blockchain will be the technology that can help to establish fair standards moving forward.

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Non-Addictive CRISPR-Edited Tobacco Could Be The Future Of The Business

A gene-edited tobacco plant created using the CRISPR technique has the lowest ever amount of nicotine. It could boost efforts to reduce nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, as the US plans to do.

Felix Stehle and Julia Schachtsiek at the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany used CRISPR to disable six enzymes involved in the production of nicotine in the tobacco plant.

While low-nicotine cigarettes have previously been shown to be just as harmful thanks to other substances and carcinogens, as the New Scientist points out, they might still help people quit the habit. Studies have shown that smokers never ended up smoking more when switching to low-nicotine cigarettes to compensate.

It’s an interesting approach to helping smokers quit in a field that’s becoming increasingly dominated by e-cigarettes. But whether either method is actually effective or healthier is debatable.

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Invasion of AI: How Will This Technology Change the World? (Part 1)

We live in a world that is beyond our control, and life is in a constant flux of change. So we have a decision to make: keep trying to control a storm that is not going to go away or start learning how to live within the rain. Although the Glenn Pemberton quote isn’t referring to the modern day struggle with new technologies, it defines the issues surrounding AI.

Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute asked several hundred machine-learning experts to predict AI capabilities, over the coming decades.

Notable dates included AI writing essays that could pass for being written by a human by 2026, truck drivers being made redundant by 2027, AI surpassing human capabilities in retail by 2031, writing a best-seller by 2049, and doing a surgeon’s work by 2053. They estimated there was a relatively high chance that AI beats humans at all tasks within 45 years and automates all human jobs within 120 years.

In this series of articles we’ll show how artificial intelligence impacts our lives in both positive and negative ways.

What is artificial intelligence?

AI systems will typically demonstrate at least some of the following behaviors associated with human intelligence: planning, learning, reasoning, problem solving, knowledge representation, perception, motion, and manipulation and, to a lesser extent, social intelligence and creativity.

AI is often used today to recommend what you should buy next online, to understand what you say to virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, to recognise who and what is in a photo, to spot spam, or detect credit card fraud and much more.

Let’s take a look at some of the areas already impacted by artificial intelligence.

Robots and driverless cars

The desire for robots to be able to act autonomously and understand and navigate the world around them means there is a natural overlap between robotics and AI. While AI is only one of the technologies used in robotics, use of AI is helping robots move into new areas such as self-driving carsdelivery robots, as well as helping robots to learn new skills. The Chinese company Baidu has invested in developing self-driving cars, powered by its deep learning algorithm, Baidu AutoBrain, and, following several years of tests, plans to roll out fully autonomous vehicles in 2018 and mass-produce them by 2021. General Motors recently said it would build a driverless car without a steering wheel or pedals by 2019, while Ford committed to doing so by 2021, and Waymo, the self-driving group inside Google parent Alphabet, will soon offer a driverless taxi service in Phoenix.

Fake news and Deepfakes

We already have neural networks that can create photo-realistic images or replicate someone’s voice in a pitch-perfect fashion. With that comes the potential for hugely disruptive social change, such as no longer being able to trust video or audio footage as genuine. Concerns are also starting to be raised about how such technologies are being used to misappropriate people’s image, with tools already created to convincingly splice famous actresses into adult films, fake political statements and more.

While this aspect of artificial intelligence seems scary, it also have some productive aspects to it. As scary as it is to be able to switch out other peoples faces and voices, it also makes it easier and less expensive to make movies and TV shows. And just like the face swapping apps of yesterday, this technology will also be used for fun and entertainment.

Speech and language recognition

One of the most visible manifestations of this AI war has been the rise of virtual assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana. This technology is already being used in other products, such as TV’s, Smartwathces and other wearables. In the next couple of years everybody will be using universal translators with every word recorded and fed into the giant A.I network.

With researchers pursuing a goal of 99 percent accuracy, expect speaking to computers to become the norm alongside more traditional forms of human-machine interaction.

Social Media

Internally, each of the tech giants use AI to help drive a myriad of public services such as serving search results, offering recommendations, recognizing people and things in photos, on-demand translation, spotting spam. The list is extensive.

These systems feature absurd processing power and instant analytical capabilities. They eat big data and crap hyper-targeted marketing. They take no breaks or vacation days, and spend no time screwing around on Facebook (except to ingest behavioral insights to make themselves smarter).

People’s faces are being used like cookies to help in offering targeted services that meet the preferences of a customer. Other companies are using facial recognition to detect the moods of their customers and, in turn, offer them suitable product recommendations.

With the focus on fake news and online hate speech, more and more tech giants are implementing filters and other vetting processes with the help of A.I systems. Facebook training agents to negotiate and even lie is a huge problem that just shows the big tech companies are guilty of doing the things they promise to protect people from.

Entertainment

Choosing what song to release or what movie to produce is already being decided mostly by AI systems. AI systems have already produced music, art and TV shows. While these AI made productions still can’t compete with human creativity and struggles with things such as emotions and humor, they are very close to matching us or even becoming better.

There have been examples of the AI producing art and news stories humans couldn’t recognize as made by a machine.

Much of the entertainment related AI business will get popularized through Augmented Reality devices such as future smartphones and smartglasses.

Law enforcement

There can be no doubt, artificial intelligence (AI) helps defend government and business systems from cyberattacks, but conversely, AI systems can be used to augment attacks against governments and corporations, even Small businesses and private persons.

While police forces in western countries have generally only trialed using facial-recognition systems at large events, in China the authorities are mounting a nationwide program to connect CCTV across the country to facial recognition and to use AI systems to track suspects and suspicious behavior, and are also trialing the use of facial-recognition glasses by police.

In the near future, law enforcement will get new tools to fight crime and solve so-called cold cases where DNA is the only evidence. A Belgian team of scientists are working on this right know and if their work is successful, cops around the world will be able to get much more information from a typical DNA sample. Our DNA decides how we look and AI systems can soon read a DNA sample and extract physical traits, deceases and much more.

Healthcare

AI could eventually have a dramatic impact on healthcare, helping radiologists to pick out tumors in x-rays, aiding researchers in spotting diseases and identifying molecules that could lead to more effective drugs.

AI will be a powerful tool in the world of genetic manipulation and give us a better understanding of our genes and potentially gene therapy techniques such as CRISPR.

Even mental health will we be impacted by A.I through personal advice and therapy, but also in detecting issues such as mental breakdowns or other major psychological problems.

Business

AI is also a major factor in business and almost every business is using it in some form or another. Security in banking is one area where AI will be used, but also in everything from stocks to job interviews.

Jobs

While AI won’t replace all jobs, what seems to be certain is that AI will change the nature of work, with the only question being how rapidly and how profoundly automation will alter the workplace.

There is barely a field of human endeavour that AI doesn’t have the potential to impact. As AI expert Andrew Ng puts it: “many people are doing routine, repetitive jobs. Unfortunately, technology is especially good at automating routine, repetitive work”, saying he sees a “significant risk of technological unemployment over the next few decades”.

Some experts think AI will improve the workplace and amount of human jobs.