Doctors might one day treat cancer by cutting bad DNA out of your genes (CLLS)

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Gene-editing grabbed headlines recently after the discovery of CRISPR, a tool that allows scientists to cut out a particular, potentially faulty gene and paste another one in its place.

Dozens of other gene-editing technologies existed before CRISPR. French biotechnology company Cellectis was experimenting with one such technique, called TALENs.

Using the tool, Cellectis is developing treatments for cancers, and last year as part of a rare exception to a limited clinical trial, they treated an 11-month-old girl named Layla who had otherwise-untreatable leukemia.

Business Insider sat down with Cellectis CEO Andre Choulika to learn more about TALENs and his plans for getting more treatments like the one that helped Layla approved.

Cutting out faulty DNA

dna cut and paste crisprTALENs, the trademarked acronym that stands for "transcription activator-like effector nucleases" refers to proteins that can be used to make cuts in DNA. By programming the TALENs, researchers can use it to remove faulty DNA. Once the targeted DNA has been removed, it sends our natural DNA-repair system into panic mode, hopefully repairing the gene.

This is the method Cellectis used to treat an infant, identified only as Layla, who was born in London with leukemia.

After Layla was born, her doctors tried to treat her using chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant. When nothing worked, they reached out to Cellectis, who they knew had been working with TALENs, and asked if they’d try their experimental treatment on Layla using something called "compassionate use," which would allow them to try it outside of a clinical-trial setting. 

The company said yes.

After extracting some of Layla’s blood and targeting some of her T-cells, special cells that play a critical role in our immune system, with the TALENs treatment, they were able to stimulate her immune system to attack her cancerous cells.

When she was tested a month later, all of Layla’s blood was tumor-free. At that point, "you could consider the patient in complete remission," said Choulika. 

Since June, Layla has reportedly stayed in remission.

Lots of gene-editing methods are heating up right now, including CRISPR and TALENs

dnaRight now, three main gene-editing technologies are being explored for therapeutic use: CRISPR, TALENs, and zinc fingers. Of the three, zinc fingers was the first method to hit clinical trials. CRISPR, on the other hand, is new, advanced, and gaining traction fast.

With CRISPR, scientists choose which gene they want to modify, use a pair of "molecular scissors" to snip out the faulty one, and swap in a more desirable version. Both methods require using a bit of molecular material to guide the scissors to the correct gene so that the cell can repair the DNA. But while CRISPR uses a strand of easy-to-build RNA, or ribonucleic acid, to guide the scissors to the right location, TALENs uses an amino acid — a protein

From a business point of view, one of the main differences between CRISPR and TALENs is that CRISPR is being used by a handful of companies and institutions (which are now facing some patent disputes). TALENs is the proprietary technology of Cellectis, so there are even fewer people using it through licenses.

"We comprehensively have an interesting IP and license in this field," Choulika said. "That’s what makes people shy off TALENs, we have a pretty dominant position."

Cellectis plans to start human trials in patients with acute myeloid leukemia sometime this year.

CHECK OUT: We got a glimpse at how the cancer test that Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates just invested in will work

SEE ALSO: 8 genetic mutations that can give you ‘superpowers’

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KORG’s new $500 minilogue analog polysynth, in a nutshell

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It seems the era of the affordable analog monosynth just gave way to the affordable analog polysynth. Leaked last week, KORG’s minilogue is a US$499.99 4-voice polysynth. Before you dive into our sprawling review, here’s everything you need to know in a nutshell. Keep in mind – we’ve had this synth since last week, so we’re not just copying specs here. How many voices has it got? Four of them. You can use them in a 4-voice polyphonic mode (that is, playing chords), or a unison mode (with all four detuned around the same pitch), a duophonic mode, or some …

The post KORG’s new $500 minilogue analog polysynth, in a nutshell appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.

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Temporarily Quitting Alcohol Brings Health Benefits

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Temporarily Quitting Alcohol Brings Health Benefits

Alcohol has some health benefits, but too much of the stuff can interfere with your health. Even if your drinking doesn’t rise to the level of a true addiction, quitting temporarily appears to benefit your body.

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The staff at New Scientist put that idea to the test by abstaining from alcohol for a month, while undergoing evaluations from a liver expert. Over that time, liver fat decreased by 15 percent (fat in the liver is a precursor to liver damage). The participants’ blood glucose, measured while fasting, fell by 16 percent. Staffers who kept drinking as normal during the month showed no changes in either measure.

The study is small and informal, but it fits with what we know about how alcohol works on our bodies. Rather than quitting for a month and then going back on your usual schedule, it’s probably better to use this as a lesson in how easy it is to reverse some of the effects of alcohol. If you’re careful to budget your intake, you can even lose weight while you continue drinking socially. Read more at the link below for what the staff of New Scientist learned from their experiment.

Our Liver Vacation: Is a Dry January Really Worth It? | New Scientist

Photo by Angelo Amboldi.


Vitals is a blog from Lifehacker all about health and fitness. Follow us on Twitter here.

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New sex toy on Indiegogo wants you to ‘train’ your penis

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Many have heard of Fleshlight, a popular sex toy for men, but a new company is taking a different approach to the male masturbator

On Friday Blewit launched an Indiegogo page. Though the gadget resembles the canister-style shape and method of similar toys, Blewit is marketing masturbation more like a gym workout.

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Image: Courtesy of Blewit.com

Rather than implying the toy is solely for sexual pleasure, Blewit wants customers to think of the toy as a "trainer" for sex with a partner — in order to "stay hard" longer and improve self-confidence Read more…

More about Indiegogo, Gadgets, Sex, Lifestyle, and Health Fitness

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The mobile revolution is over. Get ready for the next big thing: Robots

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The computer industry moves in waves. We’re at the tail end of one of those waves — the mobile revolution.

What’s next? Robots.

But not the way you think.

The robot revolution won’t be characterized by white plastic desk lamps following you around asking questions in a creepy little-girl voice, like I saw at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. That might be a part of it, but a small part.

Rather, it’ll be characterized by dozens of devices working on your behalf, invisibly, all the time, to make your life more convenient.

Some people in the industry use the term "artificial intelligence" or "digital assistants." Others talk about "smart" devices. But none of these terms capture how widespread and groundbreaking this revolution will be. This isn’t just about a coffee maker that knows to turn itself on when your alarm goes off, or a thermostat that adjusts to your presence.

(And "Internet of Things" — please stop already.) 

This is about every piece of technology in your life working together to serve you. Robots everywhere, all the time.

Not like the Roomba. More like the movie "Her."

Where we’ve been

Every 10 or 15 years, a convergence of favorable economics and technical advances kicks off a revolution in computing. Mainstream culture changes dramatically. New habits are formed. Multibillion-dollar companies are created. Companies and entire industries are disrupted and die. 

I’ve lived through three of these revolutions.

  • The PC revolution. This kicked off in the 1980s with the early Apple computers and the quick-following IBM PC, followed by the PC clones. Microsoft and Intel were the biggest winners. IBM was most prominent among the big losers, but there were many others — basically, any company that thought computing would remain exclusively in the hands of a few huge computers stored in a data center somewhere. By the end, Microsoft’s audacious dream of "a computer on every desk and in every home" was real.
  • The internet revolution. This kicked off in the mid 1990s with the standardization of various internet protocols, followed by the browser war and the dot-com boom and bust. Amazon and Google were the biggest winners. Industries that relied on physical media and a distribution monopoly, like recorded music and print media, were the biggest losers. By the end, everybody was online and the idea of a business not having a website was absurd.
  • The mobile revolution. This kicked off in 2007 with the launch of the iPhone. Apple and Samsung were the biggest winners. Microsoft was among the big losers, as its 20-year monopoly on personal computing finally broke. 

steve jobs unveils first iphone

A couple of important points.

First, when a revolution ends, that doesn’t mean the revolutionary technology goes away.

Everybody still has a PC. Everybody still uses the internet.

It simply means that the technology is so common and widespread that it’s no longer revolutionary. It’s taken for granted. 

So: The mobile revolution is over.

More than a billion smartphones ship every year. Apple will probably sell fewer iPhones this year than last year for the first time since the product came out. Huge new businesses have already been built on the idea that everybody will have an internet-connected computer in their pocket at all times — Uber wouldn’t make sense without a smartphone, and Facebook could easily have become a historical curiosity like MySpace if it hadn’t jumped into mobile so adeptly.

This doesn’t mean that smartphones are going away, or that Apple is doomed, or any of that nonsense. But the smartphone is normal now. Even boring. It’s not revolutionary.

The second thing to note is that each revolution decentralized power and distributed it to the individual.

Bill Gates kid The PC brought computing power out of the bowels of the company and onto each desk and into each home. The internet took reams of information that had been locked up in libraries, private databases, and proprietary formats (like compact discs) and made it available to anybody with a computer and a phone line.

The smartphone took those two things and put them in our pockets and purses.

Tomorrow and how we get there

This year’s CES seemed like an "in-betweener." Everybody was looking for the next big thing. Nothing really exciting dominated the show. 

There were smart cars, smart homes, drones, virtual reality, wearable devices to track athletic performance, smart beds, smart luggage (really), and, yeah, weird little robots with anime faces and little-girl voices.  

But if you look at all these things in common, plus what the big tech companies are investing in right now, a picture starts to emerge. 

  • Sensors and other components are dirt cheap. Thanks to the mobile revolution creating massive scale for the components that go into phones and tablets, sensors of every imaginable kind — GPS, motion trackers, cameras, microphones — are unimaginably cheap. So are the parts for sending bits of information over various wireless connections — Bluetooth LTE, Wi-Fi, LTE, whatever. These components will continue to get cheaper. This paves the way for previously inanimate objects to collect every kind of imaginable data and send simple signals to one another. 
  • Every big tech company is obsessed with AI. Every single one of the big tech companies is working on virtual assistants and other artificial intelligence. Microsoft has Cortana and a bunch of interesting behind-the-scenes projects for businesses. Google has Google Now, Apple has Siri, Amazon has Echo, even Facebook is getting into the game with its Facebook M digital assistant. IBM and other big enterprise companies are also making huge investments here, as are dozens of venture-backed startups. 
  • Society is ready. This is the most important point. Think about how busy we are compared with ten or twenty years ago. People work longer hours, or stitch together multiple part-time jobs to make a living. Parenting has become an insane procession of activities and playdates. The "on-demand" economy has gone from being a silly thing only business blogs write about to a mainstream part of life in big cities, and increasingly across the country — calling an Uber isn’t just for Manhattan or San Francisco any more. This is the classic situation ahead of a computing revolution — everybody needs something, but they don’t know they need it yet.

hello barbie ai artificial intelligence mattel

So imagine this. In 10 years, you pay a couple-hundred bucks for a smart personal assistant, which you install on your phone as an app. It collects a bunch of information about your actions, activities, contacts, and more, and starts learning what you want. Then it communicates with dozens of other devices and services to make your life more convenient.

Computing moves out of your pocket and into the entire environment that surrounds you.

Your alarm is set automatically. You don’t need to make a to-do list — it’s already made. Mundane phone calls like the cable guy and the drugstore are done automatically for you. You don’t summon an Uber — a car shows up exactly when you need it, and the driver already knows the chain of stops to make. (Eventually, there won’t be a driver at all.)

If you’re hungry and in a hurry, you don’t call for food — your assistant asks what you feel like for dinner or figures out you’re meeting somebody and orders delivery or makes restaurant reservations. The music you like follows you not just from room to room, but from building to building. Your personal drone hovers over your shoulder, recording audio and video from any interaction you need it to (unless antidrone technology is jamming it). 

DJI drone storeAt first, only the wealthy and connected have this more automated lifestyle. "Have your assistant call my assistant." But over time, it trickles down to more people, and soon you can’t remember what life was like without one. Did we really have to make lists to remember to do all this stuff ourselves?

This sounds like science fiction, and there’s still a ton of work ahead to get there. Nobody’s invented the common way for all these devices to speak to each other, much less the AI that can control them and stitch them together. So this revolution is still years away. But not that far.

If you try to draw a comparison with the mobile revolution, we’re still a few years from the iPhone. We’re not even in the BlackBerry days yet. We’re in the Palm Pilot and flip-phone days. The basic necessary technology is there, but nobody’s stitched it together yet.

But when they do — once again — trillion-dollar companies and industries will rise and fall, habits will change, and everybody will be blown away for a few years. Then, we’ll all take it for granted. 

SEE ALSO: I WAS A CES NEWBIE: Here’s what I learned in Las Vegas swarming with 170,000 nerds

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Watch SpaceX’s Rocket Land, Then Fall Over

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Watch SpaceX's Rocket Land, Then Fall Over

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 came very close to sticking the landing on a drone barge earlier today, but sadly, in the space industry, second place just gets you a fireworks show.

The live stream of the landing cut out at just the wrong time, so information about what went wrong came out in bits and pieces. Elon Musk just posted this video to Instagram, showing a landing that was perfect in almost every regard. Having executed a reasonably slow, vertical landing, one of the rocket’s four legs failed to lock in place, causing it to tip over and explode.Musk said that the cause of the strut failure “may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff.”

Although the landing was ultimately unsuccessful—SpaceX won’t be reusing that rocket any time soon—the company is getting much closer with every successive attempt.

Top image via SpaceX

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T-fal OptiGrill Indoor Grill

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Smart enough to know what you’re eating, even if you don’t.

Let’s say we slap some meat down in front of you. What is it? How long do you cook it? What are the rules of that particular dish? You’ll rush out and spend an hour on Google finding XXDoctorCookXX’s opinions don’t mesh with UltraChefSkyyyywalker88’s in any way shape or form. And then who do you trust? It’s STILL a crapshoot! HOW CAN ONE PERSON BE EXPECTED TO MAKE SUCH DECISIONS????

Well, don’t worry. Someone made that decision for you. Someone figured out the rules of meat, programmed it into some sensors, and left all the hard work up to this grill. All you have to do is answer the grill’s questions honestly and do what it says. Like, it will actually talk to you. It’ll beep and there’s a little light. All you have to do is obey the grill. That’s it. Do what the grill says and nobody gets hurt.

And if you do it right, you get delicious meat! What could be better? OBEY THE GRILL.

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