News broke this week of what may be the first baby created using a controversial genetic technique in order to avoid transmission of a potentially fatal genetic disease. Beyond stretching the boundaries of in vitro fertilization procedures, the technique has gained notoriety because it leaves the baby with three genetic parents. The little boy was reportedly born 5 months ago, and a New York City fertility specialist performed the treatment in Mexico, where rules around human embryo manipulation are more lax than in the United States.
Somewhere between 30 and 159 species disappear every day, thanks largely to humans, and more than 300 types of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have vanished since 1500. But what if we could resurrect some of the species we’ve lost? Advances in genetic engineering, especially the CRISPR-Cas9 revolution, have some researchers saying it’s time to start thinking seriously about which animals we might be able to bring back, and which ones would do the most good for the ecosystems they left behind. Earlier this month, ecologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, published guidelines for how to choose which species to revive.
If you shatter a bone in the future, a 3D printer and some special ink could be your best medicine. Researchers have created what they call “hyperelastic bone” that can be manufactured on demand and works almost as well as the real thing, at least in monkeys and rats. Though not ready to be implanted in humans, bioengineers are optimistic that the material could be a much-needed leap forward in quickly mending injuries ranging from bones wracked by cancer to broken skulls.
Elon Musk is whetting the appetites of Mars scientists. This week, the SpaceX CEO unveiled a vision for the colonization of Mars that he says will involve hundreds of reusable craft, each carrying somewhere between 100 and 250 colonists. Although the first Red Dragon mission would largely be a technology demonstration, there has been great interest from scientists about what sorts of experiments might piggyback on the mission—or, more likely, on its follow-ons in 2020 and beyond.
Some 56 million years ago, carbon surged into Earth’s atmosphere, raising temperatures by 5°C to 8°C and causing huge wildlife migrations. But what triggered this so-called Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) has remained a mystery. Now, in new work presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, a group of scientists announced the discovery of glassy, dark beads, set in eight sediment cores tied to the PETM’s start—spheres that are often associated with extraterrestrial strikes. This bolsters the claim that a small comet impact kicked off the PETM, stirring up the carbon just 10 million years after a similar event decimated the dinosaurs.
The Australian government this week said it has completed nearly 20% of action items laid out in its March 2015 plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef and prevent it from losing its coveted World Heritage Site status. These include such steps as reducing the impact of dredging and improving water quality. Conservationists applaud improvements in the reef’s health and resilience, but caution that current government policies do far too little to counter global warming, which officials and scientists both agree is the greatest threat to the reef’s long-term survival.
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