Author Archives: Marsha Thomas

China Opens ‘Pandora’s Box’ of Human Genetic Engineering

He Jiankui, an American-educated scientist based in Shenzhen, announced on Monday that he’d used Crispr, a powerful gene-editing tool, to make recently born twin girls resistant to HIV. He’s statement, which was not backed by peer-reviewed data and hasn’t been verified, prompted widespread condemnation from scientists in China and elsewhere, with many calling it an irresponsible use of a technology whose long-term effects are still poorly understood.

Yet whatever the veracity of He’s claims, it’s likely that China, with its aggressively entrepreneurial startups and less stringent regulation, will be the country where researchers most rapidly test the currently-accepted boundaries of genetic manipulation. That presents its leaders with a dilemma: Whether to follow the U.S. and Europe in strictly regulating its application, or take a more hands-off approach, catalyzing rapid innovation in a strategic industry at the cost of what could be serious risks to patients.

“There is always the possibility that there will be others who will bypass ethical jurisdictions, or jurisdictions that have rigorous ethical processes in place, and will try and apply the technology,” said John Christodoulou, chair of genomic medicine at the University of Melbourne. “There are rumors of it happening in China.”

A Chinese official on Tuesday emphasized at a press briefing that China had outlawed the use of gene-editing for fertility purposes in 2003. He, the researcher, will make the project’s data public Wednesday at an international genetics conference in Hong Kong, according to a representative.

He did not respond to requests for comment.

Harmonicare Medical Holdings Ltd. owns the hospital where He said he got approval for his work. It said in a filing Tuesday that it believed signatures on an application to the hospital’s medical ethics committee had been forged, and that that the committee never met to review the proposal.

“Shenzhen HarMoniCare Hospital will invite public-security organizations to participate in the investigations and pursue the legal responsibilities of the relevant individuals,” Harmonicare said in the statement. An investor relations representative for Harmonicare Medical said it is investigating the researcher’s claims when reached by telephone Tuesday.

Artificial Intelligence

The Chinese scientist is under intense pressure to produce compelling evidence, and to show he complied with ethical standards. He’s said the twins were born a few weeks ago, though the births have yet to be verified.

One of the co-inventors of the Crispr technique, University of California-Berkeley researcher Jennifer Doudna, urged extreme caution before it’s used in humans. “No clinical use should happen right now, until there is a broad societal discussion,” Doudna said in an interview in Hong Kong. “We need to be very specific that if someone wants to proceed into the clinic, here are the criteria that have to be met.”

The current gene editing debate comes as China moves ahead aggressively with what might be the other defining technology of the 21st century, artificial intelligence. The contest between Western and Chinese companies to develop powerful AI systems has been likened to the Cold War arms race, due both to the speed of back-and-forth developments and what technologists like Tesla Inc. founder Elon Musk warn could be devastating consequences for miscalculation.

As Chinese companies including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. vie with Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. for global leadership in AI, the Asian country has been much faster to commercialize applications that would raise serious ethical and regulatory concerns elsewhere. Chinese cities are pioneers in marshaling the potential of facial recognition and big data to police the behavior of their citizens, down to issuing automated fines for offenses like jaywalking.

Crispr, the Tool Giving DNA Editing Promise and Peril: QuickTake

This week, several Chinese institutions, including the university where He has served as an associate professor in biology, have disassociated themselves from his work. At the Hong Kong genetics conference, Renzong Qiu, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who’s known in the country as the “father of bioethics,” said He’s work likely violated existing government regulations.

U.S. Restrictions

The U.S. and many European countries have heavily restricted the use of Crispr for the so-called germ-line editing — making changes that will impact the descendants of an original patient — that He claims to have performed in China.

“We have a legal moratorium on that here,” U.S. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview Monday. “The potential applications are also relatively dangerous if they get into the hands of people who don’t have good judgment or have ill intent.”

In China, government guidelines issued in 2003 prohibit experimentation on embryos more than 14 days after fertilization, and ban the use of gene-manipulated embryos for reproduction. The most recent government pronouncement, a 2017 document from the science and technology ministry, said that the research involves great risks and urged rigorous supervision.

But current Chinese rules don’t impose penalties for violations, and aren’t a powerful enough deterrent against potential violators, said Zhai Xiaomei, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

While China has allowed other game-changing technologies to proceed with relatively little interference, it would be a mistake to view the country as wide-open even for those innovations. Even the most powerful Chinese companies do business only at the pleasure of the government, which can shut down their activities at any time—with virtually no recourse for the firms concerned.

One recent example comes from the games industry. Earlier this year, China halted approvals of new computer games, ostensibly to protect young players, freezing the pipelines of several Internet companies. A widespread backlash to the aggressive use of gene-editing could spur a similar reaction, or at least a dramatic clampdown on efforts like He’s.

His announcement has clearly struck a nerve among many Chinese scientists. The country’s biotech companies and universities have worked hard to counter suspicions that their endeavors are rife with fraud and the kind of minimally-supervised experimentation that the Shenzhen researcher may have engaged in.

The Genetics Society of China and the Chinese Society for Cell Biology were quick to condemn his purported work, calling it a serious ethical violation. A group of 122 Chinese research scientists on Monday published a letter that called the project unfair to the vast majority of Chinese scholars who work conscientiously and respect ethical boundaries.

They urged the Chinese government to impose clear regulations quickly. “The Pandora’s box is open,” they said. “We have a small opportunity to close it before it’s too late.”


China Opens a Pandora Box of Human Genetic Engineering

Chinese Gene Edited Babies

Cremated remains of 100 people To be launched into space on a SpaceX rocket

Before 36-year-old James Eberling died in November 2016, he told his parents he had one final wish:

He wanted his remains to be sent into space.
Now Eberling’s dream is about to be realized, as his and about 100 others’ cremated remains are expected to be launched into space Monday in a memorial satellite by the company Elysium Space.

The Japanese solutions designed to withstand climate change

With the Hybrid Island Initiative, Japan is committed to supporting island countries vulnerable to climate change.
The San Francisco-based company said families paid about $2,500 to have a sample of their loved ones’ ashes placed aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Traveling into space will be the remains of military veterans and aerospace enthusiasts, alongside those whose families were “looking to celebrate a loved one within the poetry of the starry sky,” Elysium Space said in an emailed statement.
James’ ashes and the others have been packed into a 4-inch square satellite called a cubesat, Elysium Space Founder and CEO Thomas Civeit explained to CNN. Families will be able to track the spacecraft in real-time through an app as it orbits the earth for about four years before it falls back to Earth, according to Civeit.
The launch is part of a “rideshare mission” organized by Spaceflight. The company said it purchased the rocket to accommodate clients, which range from schools to commercial businesses to government entities and international organizations.Sixty-four small satellites from 34 different organizations will be aboard, Spaceflight said.

‘May you now soar thru the Heavens’

Eberling was a missile and rocket enthusiast his entire life, his mother Beverly told CNN. He was also an avid photographer, and often went to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to take pictures of launches.
At the time of his death, James’ family was only aware of missions carrying peoples’ remains into space after being launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, Beverly said in a phone interview with CNN from Lompoc, California.
But about a month after James died, they discovered Elysium Space, and told the company they would like James’ ashes to be launched from Vandenberg AFB. That way, the family could be there.
A sample of James’ ashes were put in a small capsule engraved with his initials, JME.
The Eberlings will send a message with him, that reads, “James, you were a grounded Eagle on Earth — may you now soar thru the Heavens.”

The Elysium Star 2 cubesat.

The two years since her son’s death have been “nerve-wracking” for Beverly. She’d given the company some of her son’s ashes, and at one point she was skeptical the mission would actually go forward.
But the Eberlings were patient, and they finally got an email telling them the launch date had been set for November 19, 2018, Beverly said, two years to the day that James died.
The launch has been delayed, but Beverly doesn’t mind.
“We’re overjoyed to be able to grant him his final wish. and it means a lot to my husband and myself that we’re able to do this for him,” Beverly said. “And I think that James is very, very happy to finally see that this is going to finally take place.”
It won’t be the first time someone’s earthly remains were sent to be among the stars. In 1998, a small vial of astronomer Eugene Shoemaker’s ashes crashed into the moon as part of NASA’s Lunar Prospector mission and remains on the surface.
And the ashes of “Star Trek” actor James Doohan, who played “Scotty” on the show, were sent to space among 320 sets of ashes on a mission similar to Elysium’s in 2012. Mercury 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper’s ashes were on board that flight as well.

Galaxy S10 won’t have the iPhone’s most advanced feature

Samsung’s next flagship phone will get us even closer to the smartphone design of our dreams. Samsung already unveiled a bunch of new versions of its Infinity display that all push us closer to a bezel-less smartphone. On top of that, a flurry of reports in the past few weeks all said the same thing, that the Galaxy S10 would have a new Infinity-O display, the screen design with a hole for the selfie camera that will be first featured on the Galaxy A8s and on an upcoming Huawei phone. But can the Galaxy S10’s design also support Face ID-like 3D facial recognition?

Apple’s newer iPhone models like the iPhone XS and XR all have notches at the top because they all support Face ID, a feature that requires an array of sensors and cameras:

Image Source: Apple

Here’s one more illustration that explains the purpose of each component:

Image Source: Bloomberg

Drilling a single hole through the display wouldn’t be enough for Face ID. However, Samsung is making at least four distinct Galaxy S10 versions, and at least one of them will have a dual-lens front camera, according to recent reports. A second camera will require an additional hole in the screen, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Samsung will use the dual camera setup for 3D facial recognition. After all, Google put two front cameras on the Pixel 3 to enable wider selfies, not to enable Face ID.

Not to mention that Face ID, as we have seen above, requires a dot projector and a flood illuminator. But what’s interesting about Galaxy S10 rumors, especially the ones that come from Korea, is that they deliver all sorts of details. For example, a story from TheElec a few days ago was first to mention that Samsung will use “Hole in Active Area” (HIAA) technology to make Galaxy S10 screens and that a diode pumped solid state laser (DPSS) will be required for drilling. The same report said that Samsung Display will drill two different size holes in the panel for the front camera lens and infrared (IR) sensor. The report noted that the proximity sensor, light sensor, and LED status indicator would all be found under the screen — here’s how the current sensors setup looks on the Galaxy S9 phones:

Why would the Galaxy S10 require an infrared sensor if not to support advanced 3D face scanning? Assuming the report is accurate, we may not have enough holes in the screen to accommodate other components seen in Apple’s notch. TheElec did not elaborate on what Galaxy S10 versions will come with two HIAA holes, but reports that followed also mentioned the technology, saying that HIAA OLED screens will be a Samsung exclusive for a while.

I’ll also important to point out that while we have seen purported Galaxy S10 screen protectors out in the wild, all the leaks showed protectors that would fit single-hole screens.

But let’s dig up a report from mid-January that said Apple’s 2019 iPhones will have a smaller notch thanks to an innovation that would allow Apple to combine the FaceTime camera with the infrared camera. As a result, the notch size would be reduced significantly, although components like the dot projector and the flood illuminator would still be required.

Even if it can make Face ID work on Infinity-O screens, does Samsung really need 3D facial recognition for the Galaxy S10 right now? Was the Korean giant able to bypass Apple’s supply chain lockup with its own Face ID innovations that would make Face ID possible on a device that only has a couple of holes in the screen rather than a full notch?

Not to mention that Samsung has been developing a more sophisticated in-display fingerprint technology than what’s currently available from other Android vendors. The Galaxy S10 is said to feature an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the display instead of an optical one. So Face ID might not even be needed on a phone rocking a fast fingerprint sensor under the screen. Also, the Galaxy S10 phones supposedly won’t have iris recognition cameras, which seems to be another indication that Face ID isn’t in the cards. Early reports did say the handset would have Face ID support, but 3D face recognition hasn’t come up lately in Galaxy S10 rumors.

Meanwhile, Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro comes both with Face ID support via an iPhone-like notch, and an in-display optical fingerprint sensor. And Samsung might not want to be perceived as a company that can’t match the work of its biggest Android rival, especially considering what Huawei has been up to lately.

Best Bezel Less Smartphones give you a large display screen thereby enabling you to watch videos and other multimedia aspects clearly.

Samsung is expected to unveil four different models of the Galaxy S10 in February next year. And with each passing day, we’re getting more reasons to get excited about the next Samsung flagship. Yesterday, we saw some leaked images of purported Galaxy S10 screen protectors which hinted of extremely tiny bezels at the top and bottom. The same has been further reiterated by another leak, this time a video posted by noted leakster Ice Universe on Twitter.


Galaxy S10 Vs iPhone X Comparision

Galaxy S10 models