Gene drive and grey squirrels: Science and media

At the beginning of January 2019 an article, entitled “Accelerating Evolution” appeared in The Biologist, a journal published by the Royal Society of Biology (The Biologist 66(6) p18-21). The authors, Bruce Whitelaw and Gus McFarlane, work at the Roslin Institute in Scotland which was involved with the creation of Dolly the cloned sheep in 1996, coincidentally the occasion of …

The Power of Plasticity: Epigenetics in Science Fiction

This is another guest post by Cath Ennis in our series of posts on epigenetics and popular culture. *** One of the fascinating things about epigenetics is how quickly some of the public perceptions of the field have raced far beyond the actual state of the science. I’ve seen and heard countless online and real …

Communicating gene drive: The dangers of misleading headlines

As some of you know, I am interested in how people communicate about ‘gene drive’, a new biotechnology that can potentially be used to eradicate disease transmitting animals. Wiping out the daughters Some days ago, I saw a tweet that mentioned an article published in The Guardian entitled “Wiping out the daughters: Burkina Faso’s controversial …

A road called ‘gene drive’ and the road to ‘gene drive’: Trials and tribulations of media analysis

As people might know, I enjoy doing media analysis of emerging biotechnologies, from cloning to gene editing and beyond. I have lately become fascinated with something called ‘gene drive’, a new genetic engineering technology that was brought to public attention around 2014/2015 at the confluence of two ‘events’: the outbreak of Zika and advances in CRISPR-Cas9 …

Promoting Socially Irresponsible Research and Innovation?: That National Academy of Sciences tweet on genome editing and human enhancement

This is a guest post by Michael Morrison, PI on the ESRC BioModifying Technologies project at the Centre for Health, Law and Emerging Technologies (HeLEX), Faculty of Law, University of Oxford *** On the 30th September 2019 the Twitter account of the US National Academy of Sciences (@theNASciences) published the following tweet: “Dream of being …

The microbe/gene drive communication confusion

Last week I wrote a post about how genetic modification and/or gene drive are used when managing disease transmitting insects. I want to come back to this topic today and talk about another difference, which, yet again, confused me. I hope that these efforts of disentangling stuff also help other people trying to understand and …

Encounters between life and language

Philip Ball has just written a great article dissecting new research showing that there is no ‘gene for’ homosexuality. He notes the fallacies behind the facile way of pointing to individual genes and saying what they are ‘for’. This is dangerous, especially when talking about genes for behavioural traits. Single genes don’t determine such traits …