Chinese doctors have reportedly delivered the world’s first gene-edited babies

The CRISPR gene editing technique can be used for very positive applications, but it can also veer into incredibly controversial territory. That second category is implicated in a project reportedly being carried out in China, in which scientists are attempting to create the world’s first children whose DNA has been altered through the use of gene editing.

According to MIT Technology Review, researchers in China have sought to recruit couples for the study. They aim to modify the couples’ human embryos to eliminate a gene called CCR5. By eliminating this gene, the researchers think that it will be possible to make any offspring resistant to potentially fatal diseases such as HIV, smallpox, and cholera. Data submitted as part of the trial indicates that genetic testing has been carried out on fetuses as old as six months. Clinical trial documents relating to the project date back as far as March 2017. An Associated Press report suggests that one couple involved in the trial has given birth to twin girls, Lulu and Nana.

Confirming the birth of the first genetically modified human, or humans, would be a major milestone in science. It would be at least as significant as the invention of in vitro fertilization, in which an egg is combined with sperm outside the body, thereby helping people who may not otherwise be able to have babies to become pregnant.

However, it would prove extremely controversial, too. Provided that such a feat can be carried out safely, eliminating diseases such as HIV might be a positive application for this tool. But it also raises the prospect of so-called “designer babies,” whose appearance or personality traits can be genetically altered. In addition, it is highly problematic to experiment on healthy embryos.

Jiankui He, the scientist who leads the project, has said that he wants to focus only on medical applications for the work. “I support gene editing for the treatment and prevention of disease, but not for enhancement or improving IQ, which is not beneficial to society,” He wrote in a recent post on the Chinese social media platform WeChat.

The Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, the research organization linked to the project, has said that it is unaware of it and will carry out an investigation.

Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

This exotic new material somehow gets thicker when stretched

Scientists at the U.K.’s University of Leeds have discovered a synthetic material which actually gets thicker the more it’s stretched. Here are some of the things it could be used for.
Emerging Tech

First baby born using a womb transplanted from a deceased donor

In a world first, doctors have confirmed the birth of a healthy baby girl in Brazil using a womb transplanted from a deceased donor. Here's why that's so potentially transformative.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.
Features

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Hear the sounds of wind on Mars from InSight’s latest audio recording

NASA's InSight craft has captured the sound of the wind blowing on the surface of Mars. The audio file was picked up by the air pressure sensor and the seismometer which detected vibrations from the 10 to 15 mph winds in the area.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.