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Top stories: The untold story of 2018’s CRISPR babies, China’s gene-edited crops, and new exoplanets

The untold story of the ‘circle of trust’ behind the world’s first gene-edited babies

Chinese biophysicist and entrepreneur He Jiankui’s use of CRISPR gene-editing technology to alter the genetic code of two human babies rocked the international scientific community last fall. Now, more information has emerged about He’s plans, his collaborators, and the people he confided in.

To feed its 1.4 billion, China bets big on genome editing of crops

As its population grows, China is leaning heavily into the hope that the powerful genome editor CRISPR can transform the country’s food supply. Today, China publishes twice as many CRISPR-related agricultural papers as the second-place United States, and it is pushing hard to become a global leader in gene-edited agriculture.

Newly discovered exoplanet trio could unravel the mysteries of super-Earth formation

Three newly discovered exoplanets could help researchers redefine the shaky line between rocky and gaseous planets, according to new observations from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. The satellite, which marked its first year of operations last month, spotted the trio of planets some 73 light-years away from Earth. The exoplanets are of a type that does not exist in our solar system, being between Earth and Neptune in size.

How Komodo dragons survive deadly bites from other Komodos

Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) have always been oddballs in the reptile world. Their unusual cardiovascular system and their uniquely powerful sense of smell help them hunt—and find mates—more easily than other lizard species. Now, scientists know why, thanks to the first-ever sequencing of the Komodo dragon’s genome.

Sea of Galilee earthquakes triggered by excessive water pumping

In September 2013, windows rattled and ceiling fans swayed in northeastern Israel as five small earthquakes rumbled beneath the Sea of Galilee—the water Jesus is said to have walked on. A dozen more shook the same spot in July 2018. Although far more powerful earthquakes have struck the Levant, swarms such as these are rare and mysterious—and a new study suggests human activity is to blame.