The return of the phage! GMO phage.

Antibiotic resistance is racing through the world and a growing number of pathogens are becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Even worse, extreme drug resistance is growing where the pathogen is resistant to all known antibiotics. An increasing number of such cases end in death. 

It is not just about diseases like drug resistant tuberculosis. A simple finger cut infected by antibiotic resistant bacteria can result in amputation of the arm or death. Such pathogens have started spreading within hospitals and the victims are usually patients who have undergone surgery.

Since 1919, even before antibiotics were discovered, phages have been used to treat diseases. Phages are viruses that kill the bacteria. For every known bacterium, there is some type of phage out there which feeds on the bacteria and kills it.

The amazing effectiveness of antibiotics ensured that the use of phages stopped and disappeared. No further research happened on phages.

Now, it appears that not only can we fight drug resistant bacteria with naturally occurring phages, we can also genetically engineer phages to target any specific kind of bacteria. As this article suggests –  https://www.wsj.com/articles/genetically-engineered-viruses-treat-antibiotic-resistant-infection-11557334800

Now this is GMO research even the environmentalists should welcome!

I now hope that phages research progresses rapidly and phage based solutions become widely available before antibiotic resistant diseases ravage our planet and hundreds of millions of people die. This scary scenario is now inevitable unless we figure out new ways of curing antibiotic resistant disease.

A brain dead person may not be dead after all!

Reference article – 

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/04/pig-brains-partially-revived-what-it-means-for-medicine-death-ethics/

Reviving dead pig brains means only one thing from an ethics standpoint and that concerns the definition of human death.

If a person’s breathing stops, is he dead? We now know he is not and that he can be put on a ventilator.

If a person’s heart stops, is she dead? We know that it is not true because hearts can be revived and hearts can be transplanted as well.

Pig brains have thrown up a conundrum for us.

Theranos and Napster ?


Reference link – https://onezero.medium.com/post-theranos-startups-are-still-out-for-blood-5d5c43cf3376

The fall of Theranos did not wipe out the pin prick diagnostics industry.

On the contrary, it is much like Napster, which went down but laid the foundation for the enormous disruption of the music industry. 

Napster showed the way and the opportunity for download and streaming services and today’s music industry owes much to the fact that Napster existed when it did. Apple, Spotify and so much more…

Theranos, similarly showed how big the market is and investor interest is for successful, edge of the network diagnostics.

So now we have many more companies doing very interesting work in the space. The diagnostics industry is going to see significant disruption. 

Much of the diagnostics technologies, labs and methods of today are going to be replaced in the next decade. They will be replaced by superior technologies, devices, tests, at the edge of the network and at much lower costs.

Pseudoscience in school textbooks

Reference article – https://thewire.in/the-sciencges/pseudoscientific-claims-are-irrational-but-thats-not-their-biggest-danger

The mainstreaming of Pseudo Science is an unfortunate fall out of the politics in the last few years.

Just as we have the creationists in the US who do not recognise evolution (among other things), we are breeding our own versions of crackpots who see science in myth and see evidence of advanced technology in the mythology of relatively primitive times.

Nothing wrong with the crackpots. They are very entertaining.

The problem is when their theories (alternative facts?) start appearing in school textbooks.

Parents must watch out for such things in school text books and point them out to their children. Get them scientific international reading material that makes the children question everything and not blindly believe anything they see in their textbooks.

Let’s teach our children to not unquestioningly believe their text books or their teachers. They must ask their teachers and get sensible answers. They must learn to check credible alternative sources of information (books and online) and challenge the fake news, myth and fake science.

Blind obedience and belief in the guru is not a virtue in school children. It’s a damaging and stupidly outdated concept. It will be a handicap for them in tomorrow’s job market. 

Look at all the fake stuff floating around in WhatsApp groups and many of your friends actually believing them and forwarding them! Do you want your children to grow up to be like those ignorant simpletons?

Artificial life forms

Reference article – https://thenextweb.com/robots/2019/04/19/cornell-scientists-create-living-machines-that-eat-grow-and-evolve

Organically grown, artificial, self reproducing machines are here.

This is still very far away from highly evolved artificial life but has its potential uses.

Highly evolved artificially engineered life is also a reality now but that’s not about creating life from scratch. That’s all about genetically re-engineering an already evolved species.

The old GMO techniques were slow, expensive and error prone.

The new techniques using CRISPR and others like it are precise, inexpensive, quick and quite easy.

I would really like a phosphorescent pet dog that glows bright red in the dark. Just kidding….

Culturing cancer cells on a chip

Reference article – https://medium.com/scientific-american/new-strategies-take-on-the-worst-cancer-glioblastoma-7b3439c8c3f5?

This technology could work not just for glioblastomas. 

Therapies could be tried on various cancers and cellular diseases on a chip to see what works and what does not.

Tissue Culture Diagnostics 2.0, which enables us to culture abnormal human cells in a chip outside of the body and test drugs and other combination therapy on them.

I suspect the biggest leveraged gains from this technology will come from using it for research to identify new, effective therapies.

An explosion of new species is just around the corner

Reference link – https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/mar/02/nessa-carey-interview-china-gene-editing-big-pharma-100000-genomes-project

The consequences of democratised access to gene editing technology is certainly one of the biggest issues we will grapple with in the next 3 to 4 decades.

Nessa Carey believes that consensus is the only way to manage the risks. I do not agree at all.

There is a reason why consensus works for nuclear weapons but it does not for meth labs.

When everyone has access, it is too complex to deliver consensus or control.

The cat is out of the bag and an explosion of human engineered organisms is around the corner.

I am not sure how this can be avoided. I have not heard of any theories that make sense.

I am also concerned that while there is a lot of talk nowadays about the threats to humans from Artificial General Intelligence, why is there not much talk about the threat from garage engineered plants, microorganisms and possibly even insects, reptiles and mammals.

It takes a lot of money and resources to build complex AI. CRISPR on the other hand, can be used by practically anyone.

A man made killer flu

Reference article – https://medium.com/s/powertrip/the-ender-c525d87e66cf

Bio Weapons have been talked about for a long time and many governments have funded this kind of research.

But now with gene editing technologies, it has become easy for non state actors, including malicious individuals to create horrifying pathogens.

Here is an engineered pathogen with three thousand times the mortality rate of swine flu. Scary stuff.

Mobile Phone Radiation, Fertility and more

Reference article – https://medium.com/s/the-nuance/are-airpods-and-other-bluetooth-headphones-safe-214a0449e13a

When in doubt and alternatives exist, it’s better to use options that are known to be safer.

1- Use a Bluetooth headset that does not fit inside your ear canal.

2- Do not hold your mobile phone to your ear. Use a headset. The EMF from the phone is 40-100 times more powerful than EMF from Bluetooth.

3- Men, do not keep keep your mobile phone in your trouser pockets. Not if you intend to have children.

The last statement is backed up by studies on sperm count. Simply Google “The influence of direct mobile phone radiation on sperm quality” to access one such study.

WHO on human genome editing

Reference article – https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/19-03-2019-who-expert-panel-paves-way-for-strong-international-governance-on-human-genome-editing

The WHO is putting together standards for the governance and oversight of human genome editing.

However, I remain very sceptical about its enforceability and adoption amongst the fringe.

Some simple guidelines are more than enough for adoption by the mainstream research community. There is no real need for enforcement or a high level of oversight.

The problem however, is not the mainstream research community.

The violators will be the rogues – researchers and even some governments. The WHO governance and oversight standards, will neither be effective nor be followed by the rogues.

We have entered a new and scary era of genetic engineering.

CRISPR changes things fundamentally and puts enormous power, even in the hands of resource constrained individuals.

A small lab in a garage and a lone rogue researcher can unleash all kinds of horrors.

The world quickly needs to figure out how to manage and control this demon.