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Top Stories of the Week: Trump’s Ban on Fetal Tissue Research, CRISPR Babies and Finger Ratios

Top Stories of the Week: Trump’s Ban on Fetal Tissue Research, CRISPR Babies and Finger Ratios

We selected this week's three best science stories on the web for you. Read about Trump's ban on fetal tissue research, the risks for CRISPR twin babies and the science of finger ratios.

With Trump’s ban on fetal tissue research, scientists worry that vaccine development will be hindered

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Trump’s fetal tissue ban will hinder HIV cure, Zika research
Nicole Karlis | Salon | June 6, 2019

For Salon, Nicole Karlis writes about the consequences of Trump’s administration’s decision to cut funding for research based on fetal tissue from elective abortions.

According to a statement from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration”.

Although ongoing projects will not be affected by the decision, all new research grant applications or current projects in the process of renewal will have to go through an evaluation from an ethics advisory board. The HHS Department has recently revoked a contract with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), which included research on fetal tissue to test HIV therapies.

In a response to the President’s announcement, UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood wrote that “At UCSF, today’s action ends a 30-year partnership with the NIH to use specially designed models that could be developed only through the use of fetal tissue to find a cure for HIV. UCSF exercised appropriate oversight and complied with all state and federal laws. We believe this decision to be politically motivated, shortsighted, and not based on sound science.” Other researchers echoed these concerns and fear that the decision will delay the development of new therapies and vaccines.

The world’s first gene-edited twins may be at risk of an early death

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China’s CRISPR babies could face earlier death
Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review| June 3, 2019

Last year, He Jiankui become widely known for claiming he had created the world’s first gene-edited babies at the International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong. Critics raised their voices against the practice, arguing that such a procedure is extremely dangerous, especially considering the lack of international regulation on the matter.

Now, a report shows that the mutations created by Chinese scientist will likely shorten people’s lives.

Antonio Regalado, writing for the MIT Technology Review, explains why mutations on the CCR5 gene causes complications and enhance susceptibility to other illnesses, despite claims they may prevent HIV infections. 

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Your future at the tip of your fingers: is it science?

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Talk to the hand. Scientists try to debunk idea that finger length can reveal personality and health
Mitch Leslie | Science | June 6, 2019

A whole body of work tries to prove that personality traits, medical conditions or cognitive abilities can be predicted by the 2D:4D ratio, the ratio between the lengths of the second and fourth fingers. The notion stems from evolutionary biology and it is said to reflect a fetus’ exposure in the womb to hormones that guide development.

In an article for Science Magazine, Mitch Leslie gives us an insight into the history of the “finger ratio” field of research and tells us what scientists think of it.

“The idea that one number reveals so much about us is irresistible”

 Geneticist David Evans of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia