Issue #353

This week - how to protect first CRISPR babies; our insect-based future; a robotic goat from Kawasaki; AI treats math problems as games and helps solve them; and more!


More Than A Human

Man given genetically modified pig heart dies

The first person in the world to get a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig has died. David Bennett, who had terminal heart disease, survived for two months following the surgery in the US. Mr Bennett knew the risks attached to the surgery, acknowledging before the procedure it was "a shot in the dark". Nonetheless, this operation is a big moment in medicine.

How to protect the first ‘CRISPR babies’ prompts ethical debate

Two prominent bioethicists in China are calling on the government to set up a research centre dedicated to ensuring the well-being of the first children born with edited genomes. Scientists have welcomed the discussion, but many are concerned that the pair’s approach would lead to unnecessary surveillance of the children. The proposal comes ahead of the possibly imminent release from prison of He Jiankui, the researcher who in 2018 shocked the world by announcing that he had created babies with altered genomes.

Artificial Intelligence

Grunt of the litter: scientists use AI to decode pig calls

Scientists believe that the AI pig translator – which turns oinks, snuffles, grunts and squeals into emotions – could be used to automatically monitor animal wellbeing and pave the way for better livestock treatment on farms and elsewhere. “We have trained the algorithm to decode pig grunts,” said Dr Elodie Briefer, an expert in animal communication who co-led the work at the University of Copenhagen. “Now we need someone who wants to develop the algorithm into an app that farmers can use to improve the welfare of their animals.”

In New Math Proofs, Artificial Intelligence Plays to Win

Inspired by DeepMind and their AIs that mastered multiple games, some mathematicians asked themselves "can we do the same in maths?". The answer is yes, you can make a computer see mathematical problems as games and use reinforced learning to solve them.

Five ways AI is saving wildlife – from counting chimps to locating whales

AI finds a way. This article lists five examples of how AI is used in helping protect species around the world - from finding whales to stopping poachers.

Robotics

Kawasaki’s Robot Ibex: Can It Be Tamed?

Boston Dynamics has robotic dogs and Kawasaki has a robotic goat. Meet Bex - a robotic goat designed to carry lightweight cargo which you can ride.

Bringing The Art Of Origami And Kirigami To Robotics And Medical Technology

This article shows how creative engineers build simple yet effective robots inspired by origami and kirigami and how these robots can be used in medicine delivering drugs or performing surgeries.

Biotechnology

Insect Futures—From Farm, to Table, to Pharmacy

From producing food to being food to helping find new antifungals, antivirals, or antibiotics - our future could be more dependent on insects and this article explains how scientists and engineers are learning to find new uses for tiny critters.

Tiny ‘drug factories’ kill cancer in mice in days

A new immunotherapy treatment can eradicate advanced-stage ovarian and colorectal cancer in mice in as little as six days, researchers report. The therapy could be ready for human clinical trials later this year. Researchers used implantable “drug factories” the size of a pinhead to deliver continuous, high doses of interleukin-2, a natural compound that activates white blood cells to fight cancer. Human clinical trials could begin as soon as this fall, researchers say.

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