1. Editing Embryos

    [ By on August 03, 2017 ]

    There are several biotech dreams that I didn't think would be realized in my lifetime - cloning an organism and relatively simple gene editing of a human embryo.  I'm 0 for 2.  Read for yourself here and here.  (I was surprised to see that the disorder they were working with was Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy; my lab from graduate school worked on genes / proteins associated with this disease). Wow. A few thoughts in the scientific and ethical domains. 1 - The efficiency rate is quite high - 72%.  The problem with earlier gene editing techniques was the abysmally low efficiency rate. 2 - This paper reported on correction of mistakes from the male (from the sperm) with a wild type female (egg).  Obviously, ...

    continue reading…

  2. How sure are we that football leads to CTE?

    [ By on August 03, 2017 ]

    When I meet people and let them know I'm from Pittsburgh, it becomes immediately evident that I am a football fan.  Given that, how are we to interpret the information about the relationship between football and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy? First, it must be emphasized that this is a "convenience sample" meaning that it is not necessarily representative of all football players.  Indeed, these players donated their brains for research; one could ask why they did so.  Second, the evaluations were completed "blind" which means that those observing the brains did not know whose brain it was or whether they had played football for a long time in a high hit position.  In addition, the evaluations were replicated four times.  Third, ...

    continue reading…

  3. Charlie Gard and Parents’ Judgments of their Child’s Interests

    [ By on July 19, 2017 ]

    I have been following the case of Charlie Gard.  Charlie, a one year old boy from the UK, was born apparently healthy, but began showing signs of serious problems at just a few months old.  Ultimately, he was diagnosed with Mitochondrial DNA Depletion Syndrome (MDDS), a disease that is going to kill him, a conclusion that can be made with virtually 100% certainty.  For more on his case, please see the Wikipedia entry.  Though it is exceedingly difficult to get unbiased information in these cases, I am strangely devoted to Wikipedia because I feel that all of those who have a stake in this case will do what they can to have their point of view recorded accurately. I am ...

    continue reading…

  4. Should Music Be a Mandatory Part of Education? (by Emilio Modeste)

    [ By on May 22, 2017 ]

    For years, people have fought to grow school budgets to put music programs in public schools. And the main opponent is, in fact, the limited resources that the education system has to cultivate music programs in schools.However, from this blockade arises a very real question: why is music a necessary part of a children’s education? If legislation is going to pass to put more music in schools, then there needs to be proof that it is an integral part of a child’s development. An article published for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that students under music education are better at processing sound in their brains, while those who are not have less developed capabilities. Though the ...

    continue reading…

  5. Using Psychedelics to Expand Human Consciousness (by Emilio Modeste)

    [ By on May 16, 2017 ]

    According to a scientific experiment on the effects of psychedelics from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it was concluded that the brain limits the consciousness of the individual, and with the use of psychedelics, this consciousness is expanded and the brain submits to the effects that follow. This manifests itself through experiences of synesthesia, a dream-like state, and feeling unfamiliar senses. A goal of many people is to discover a higher purpose in life, or to discover what role they play society, but also in the universe. Many philosophers who task themselves with developing a heightened level of self-awareness, like author Sam Harris, often experiment with psychedelics like LSD or MDMA. The question that arises from this is: ...

    continue reading…

  6. Should Doctors be the Judges of Our Well Being? (by Marnie Foster)

    [ By on May 15, 2017 ]

    The Doctrine of Informed Consent was a law passed in order to give patients more autonomy over their body and treatment. It requires doctors to inform patients of risks of a recommended procedure before the patient decides whether or not to allow the doctor to carry out the procedure. While the doctors are considered experts of their “medical well being,” the patient is best suited to make decisions for the “overall well being” which is why it is the patient that has the final say. While this is the case in some branches of our healthcare system, the prescription drug system is designed to promote a patient’s health, but not necessarily their well being. Therefore, this system contradicts this justification ...

    continue reading…

  7. Harvesting Organs of “John Doe” Patients (by Catie Goodell)

    [ By on May 15, 2017 ]

    In Grey’s Anatomy, there are many episodes where an accident occurs and their identification has been lost, so they are titled a “John Doe.” In many cases, the John Doe either dies due to the accident or has been left brain dead, and the physician would like to harvest their organs for patients who have an identity and maybe some personal connection. Grey’s Anatomy, I will admit, as a TV Drama series, adds a personal connection and large backstory that makes the audience and the physician advocate for taking the organs of the John Doe. Although it is written in the law that organ transplants can only take place with consent from the patient or family, many people advocate for ...

    continue reading…

  8. Savior Siblings (by Catie Goodell)

    [ By on May 15, 2017 ]

    Molly Nash was born in 1994 with a genetic disorder called Fanconi anemia, a disease that causes problems with her bone marrow and leukemia later on. There was a 25 percent chance that the parents could have a child the same disorder, so her parents abstained from having another child until they heard of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a process that allows parents to pre-screen their embryos for any genetic anomalies. In the case of the Nash family, they screened the genetic makeup of each embryo for the presence of Fanconi anemia and if the tissue would match Molly’s, so she could have a transplant. Immediately after Adam was born, they used the tissue from his umbilical cord to use ...

    continue reading…

  9. Nuclear Weapons and Warfare: The Ethical Dilemma with Manufacturing Weapons for our Safety and the End of Another’s Life (by Catie Goodell)

    [ By on May 15, 2017 ]

    For my tenth grade term paper, I researched the reasons that lead the United States to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Some of the reasons I came upon were that Japan was being too harsh to their prisoners of war and that American lives were greatly affected by the attack on Pearl Harbor. I think that it has to do with the idea of suffering that we discussed at many points throughout this unit. In the animal rights unit, we looked at the development of nervous systems and the development of consciousness of animals, in comparison to humans, to interpret if they totally understood what was happening to them or if they were feeling any pain. We ...

    continue reading…

  10. Artificial Intelligence (by Jack Rosenthal)

    [ By on May 15, 2017 ]

    Alot has changed in the past few decades. New technology and advancements have not only elevated our global society, but it has also improved it in ways we could not have imagined. One of these advancements we have made is artificial intelligence, or AI. We see this technology in our day to day lives like when we use personal assistants such as Apple's “Siri,” Amazon’s “Alexa,” and Samsung’s “Cortana.” The point is, is that AI serves millions of people around the day, every second. We use this intelligence to improve our lives as well as lives of others. From in our pockets to the cars we drive, AI is everywhere. But should there be a limit? Have we flown to ...

    continue reading…