June 19, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Round up of this week's news: Genetically edited babies; genetic map of cannabis; and the landing of InSight on Mars.

First up, a Chinese scientist has helped create the world’s first genetically edited babies. The news has sent shockwaves through the scientific community, many calling it ‘premature’ and ‘human experimentation’. He Jiankui says he used CRISPR technology to alter a gene in a fertilised egg. The edit is intended to make the offspring, in this case twins, resistant to HIV infection. Research of this nature is banned in most countries and highly controversial, as the edit will exist in future generations.


Next, the cannabis genome has been mapped in a world first, identifying the origins of the cannabis ‘high’ and opening the way to breed better medicinal cannabis. The project by the University of Toronto, published in the journal Genome Research, located the genes for the psychoactive constituent THC and the non-psychoactive, but medicinal CBD, and discovered these share an ancestral gene long ago in evolution. This genetic map will assist future research to breed cannabis strains for medicine by disrupting the THC gene and increasing CBD content.


Finally, you’ll be pleased to hear that the family of Mars-based robots have a new friend. InSight is the latest man-made object to be sent to the red planet, but unlike its predecessors it is not a rover. InSight is a stationary laboratory which can peer inside its host, measuring the seismology and heat flow. Its mission? To seek out new information on the formation of rocky planets – to boldly go where no rover has gone before.

This week’s news was created by Madeleine Openshaw, Gina Degtyareva, Christine Parry, Harry Lampert and Tristan Varela.  They are all studying for a MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

Banner image: Mars InSight, Jet Propulsion Laboratory