CRISPR Beyond Gene-Edited Babies

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In late November, it was hard to miss the shocking claim that a Chinese researcher used CRISPR, a relatively new gene-editing technique, on twin baby girls while in the embryonic state. According to the Associated Press, the researcher, He Jiankui, said his goal “was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but to try to bestow a trait that few people naturally have—an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”

The procedure was quickly denounced by many scientists as unsafe and unethical, with the potential to harm not only the girls’ genes, but also their offspring. Many articles on the subject followed, debating the ethics and safety of the work. Adding to the controversy is that the research has yet to be verified in a peer-reviewed journal.

But how did we get here? What is CRISPR and its intended use? For people who want a little more background on this groundbreaking technique, and its importance beyond the latest headlines, we invite you read our new briefing paper on CRISPR and its use in neuroscience—both as a research tool and, potentially, a treatment for brain-related disorders.

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Final Brain in the News of 2018

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Photo from the December issue of Brain in the News. Image: Shutterstock

If you’re a subscribed reader of Brain in the News, you should have the final issue of the year in your mailbox by now (if you’re a loyal reader from outside of North America, please allow a couple extra days for delivery).

This year Brain in the News underwent a few changes, while maintaining the foundation of the publication as a trustworthy collection of news articles about the brain. We hope you enjoy the new layout as much as we do. It features a new “Bits and Pieces” section made up of facts and figures about the brain, neuroscience throughout history, top-rated brainy books, and our “honorable mentions” of internet news stories, “Brain on the Web.” The paper also includes a new “Stay Healthy” section, which highlights different wellness tips each issue and offers guidance on small things we can all do to protect our brains.

Another feature we are especially excited about is a new neuroethics column, written by former deputy editorial page editor of The New York Times Phil Boffey. Boffey, who also served as editor of Science Times, will continue delivering his monthly columns on different topics that analyze ethical dilemmas around brain-related news. You can read his latest column on the opioids crisis on the Dana website.

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New High School Neuroscience Curriculum

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A neuroscience curriculum for high school students has found a home on The Franklin Institute’s new website dedicated to the brain. Educators looking to generate excitement about brain science with an eye towards the field’s societal implications can now access the expertly reviewed—and free—resource.

The curriculum, developed jointly by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neuroscience & Society and The Franklin Institute, is a cohesive blueprint of instructional material designed around teenagers’ everyday decisions as they enter adulthood. The website describes the units as roughly two-week-long sections that can be offered as a semester-long course or as stand-alone components that can be incorporated into existing courses. Continue reading

Brain Awareness Week 2019 is Coming

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) 2019 (March 11-17) is only three months away, so it’s time to start planning your BAW activities and taking advantage of the resources we offer on the BAW website! Every March, BAW, the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research, unites the efforts of partner organizations worldwide in a week-long celebration of the brain.

During BAW, partners organize fun and fascinating activities in their communities to educate and excite people of all ages about the brain and the promise of brain research. From brain fairs to symposiums to classroom visits and film screenings, the variety of events is almost endless.

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Brainy the Robot has been making the rounds during events organized by the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania since 2010.

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New Report Finds Current Strategies Insufficient for Preventing the Most Preventable Cause of Mental Illness

Guest blog by Brenda Patoine

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Childhood maltreatment is recognized as the No. 1 preventable cause of mental illness – and some experts argue, of all stress-related diseases – yet science still has no clear answers for how to best prevent the spiral of neglect and abuse that threatens millions of infants and children in the U.S. alone.

In a report published this week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF), a U.S. Public Health Service committee charged with recommending action to thwart preventable health conditions, conceded that there was “insufficient data” to recommend any particular strategy that has been tested as a means of preventing childhood maltreatment, which encompasses neglect as well as physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. Preventive interventions initiated in primary care focus on preventing maltreatment before it occurs, as opposed to identifying children who are victims of abuse or neglect. Continue reading

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