Science

Mainstream Science Now Resembling CIA Mind Control Programs To Wipe Memories

http://www.renegadetribune.com/mainstream-science-now-resembling-cia-mind-control-programs-wipe-memories/
By Aaron Kesel

Years of research on mice proves that scientists can weaken or strengthen particular memories from the brain or outright delete inherited memories, the Guardian reported.

Scientists hope that the new discovery could potentially be used to help those with cognitive decline or post-traumatic stress disorder by removing fearful memories.

“We can use the same approach to selectively manipulate only the pathological fear memory while preserving all other adaptive fear memories which are necessary for our daily lives,” Jun-Hyeong Cho, co-author of the research from the University of California said.

The researchers used those mice to examine the pathways between the amygdala area of the brain responsible for emotional memories and the area that produces particular sounds. They played a series of low- and high-pitched tones that shocked the mice’s feet with electrodes on the high-pitched sounds.

“These mice are special in that we can label or tag specific pathways that convey certain signals to the amygdala, so that we can identify which pathways are really modified as the mice learn to fear a particular sound,” Cho said. “It is like a bundle of phone lines,” he added. “Each phone line conveys certain auditory information to the amygdala.”

The team then discovered it was possible to completely erase fearful or unwanted memories using a technique called optogenetics, while medication has been used for this purpose to remove the negative associations of some memories.

This technique involves using a virus to introduce genes into particular neurons in the brains of the mice that were involved in the “high-pitch” pathways.

Once the virus was inside the cells, the genes resulted in the production of proteins which responded to light, allowing researchers to control the activity of the neurons.

Taking mice with the fearful memories, the team exposed the neurons involved in the “high-pitch” pathway to low-frequency light – an approach which weakens the connections between the brain’s neuron transmitters.

“It permanently erases the fear memory,” Cho said. “We no longer see the relapse of fear.”

‘The fact that you can parcel out these memories and manipulate them in a predictable fashion is remarkable,’ Sumantra Chattarji, an expert on memory at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India told New Scientist.

‘This was impossible a few years ago.’

In another study from 2015, MIT scientist found that in animals that developed PTSD symptoms following chronic stress and a traumatic event, serotonin promoted the process of memory consolidation. When the researchers blocked the amygdala cells’ interactions with serotonin after trauma, the stressed animals did not develop PTSD symptoms, while blocking serotonin in unstressed animals after trauma had no effect.

Then earlier this year scientist from MIT and a team in Japan discovered how memories were formed simultaneously in the hippocampus and the cortex by watching how memories responded to an electric shock. In other words, one is for the present short-term and the second is for the long-term.

Scientists have also discovered that generations pass on memories to each other.

None of this is new, this is the overt or clear world scientists catching up with the black-budget scientists in bases like s4.

There was a series of CIA mind control programs including BLUEBIRD, ARTICHOKE, MKULTRA, MKSEARCH and MKNAOMI during the ’50s to ’90s. The CIA sought to blank-slate test subjects wiping memories through drugs, electric shock, high-pitched sound and other torture techniques.

Dr. Ewen Cameron was partially backed by the CIA during project MKULTRA and used electrodes to zap the memories from his unwitting patients’ brains during the 1950s. This method of torture was called “psychic driving.”

After horrendous electric shocks, drugs were given to the test subjects to put them into days of prolonged delirious sleep. Cameron would then subject them to audio tapes he made, in which he repeated certain phrases thousands of times, with the hope of producing new personalities within them.

A 2012 lawsuit filed by veterans’ groups, against the CIA and the DOD, refers to Cameron’s methods. The suit also states that two researchers, Dr. Louis West and Dr. Jose Delgado, working together under the early CIA MKULTRA subproject 95, utilized two protocols: brain implants (“stimoceivers”) and RHIC-EDOM (Radio Hypnotic Intracerebral Control-Electronic Dissolution of Memory) to program the minds of victims.

Translation: they sought to bury memories, and implant false memories that never happened.

The CIA ultimately found that stress and sleep deprivation can make people more susceptible to false memories as have other researchers.

Neuroscientists in France implanted false memories into the brains of sleeping mice in 2015. Using electrodes to directly stimulate and record the activity of nerve cells, they created artificial associative memories that persisted while the animals snoozed and then influenced their behavior when they finally woke up. MIT scientist also achieved the same result using mice in a similar experiment prior in 2013.

Meanwhile, Japanese researchers have developed a trick to implant false visions into people’s brains, altering the way they experience the world and potentially even the way they think.

The gap is decreasing from what covert science knows and what overt science knows – or the clear world and the black-budget world of military intelligence minds.


Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post and is Director of Content for Coinivore. Follow Aaron at TwitterandSteemit.

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The first animals evolved during the absolute worst time on Earth

About 700 million years ago, Earth turned into a snowball. The polar ice sheets expanded until they engulfed the globe. The oceans turned to slush. The vast expanses of ice and snow reflected the sun’s light back into space, exacerbating the endless winter. Temporary relief came in the form of massive volcanic eruptions, which spewed carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and triggered a period of global warming. But that, too, spiraled out of control. Earth became a greenhouse — its oceans hot enough to cook their inhabitants, its blighted landscape further ravaged by floods. Then, suddenly, something about the shifting continents or ash-darkened skies prompted the planet to cool again. The snowball returned.

It’s hard to imagine a less auspicious time to be a tiny creature trying to eke out an existence. But this period, called the Cryogenian, is when complex animal life got going. From the wreckage of this ice-and-fire-scourged planet emerged the evolutionary group that would give rise to jellyfish and corals, mollusks, snails, fish, dinosaurs, beetles, birds and, eventually, all of us.

This is no coincidence, scientists say. In paper published this week in the journal Nature, researchers report that the appearance of complex, multicellular animals is inextricably linked to a boom in algae enabled by the same destructive forces that made the Cryogenian seem so hellish.

“The work helps us answer the question why we exist,” lead author Jochen Brocks wrote in an email. And it may help scientists determine what conditions would be needed for complex organisms to evolve on alien worlds.

Life has existed on Earth for almost as long as Earth has been around. Every few months, it seems, researchers uncover ever-more-ancient rocks they claim contain the world’s oldest fossils. But the creatures that inhabited our planet for its first 3 billion years were tiny, simple — mostly single-celled bacteria.

But about 650 million years ago — during the brief warm spell between Earth’s snowball periods — more sophisticated creatures started to evolve. They had rudimentary tissues, including neurons, and they swiftly diversified into the various animal groups we recognize today.

Scientists couldn’t figure out why it took so long for complex life to appear, according to Brocks, a biogeochemist at the Australian National University. Was it just a matter of time? The evolution of an animal is incredibly difficult, and because evolution is random and undirected, it might understandably take a while for the right genetic flukes to occur. Or was there some environmental constraint inhibiting the growth of large, moving organisms?

Some scientists have proposed that, because animals breathe oxygen, they couldn’t evolve until atmospheric oxygen levels reached a certain threshold. But there’s no direct evidence of oxygen levels in the geologic record, Brocks said, so it’s difficult to test this theory.

He was most interested in a third explanation. Animals can’t make their own fuel, so they require a buffet of efficient energy sources — in other words, food. The boring bacterial ecosystem that existed for most of Earth’s history couldn’t supply it. Those creatures would be as small and unsatisfying to a complex multicellular organism as a flea would be to a tiger. Algae, on the other hand, have a cell volume 1,000 times bigger than a bacterium. Now that’s a scrumptious meal.

Algae first emerged somewhere between 1 billion and 2 billion years ago, when a large cell known as a eukaryote swallowed a tiny photosynthetic critter called a cyanobacteria and put it to work. But Brocks wanted to know when algae became abundant, to pinpoint the moment when there were enough of these organisms floating around that they could start to fuel other creatures.

This was no easy task — tiny, soft algae decay quickly, so they don’t leave an obvious mark on the fossil record. Instead, Brocks and his colleagues looked for the molecular traces that decaying organisms left behind. The team ground up rocks that formed from sediments at the bottoms of ancient oceans and mixed the resulting powder with a solvent to produce a bizarre chemical brew. They could then analyze their concoctions for signatures of bacteria and algae.

Their results indicated that algae remained relatively marginal for millions of years after they first evolved. But then his colleague Amber Jarrett found an immaculately preserved rock from the “inter-Snowball period” 650 million years ago, when Earth was momentarily warm. The chemical brew from this rock showed that algae abundances increased by a factor of 100 to 1,000 during this period. The Age of Algae had begun.

“We could not have made our discovery in any more exciting period,” Brocks wrote. “The close temporal connection between the melting of the Snowball, rising nutrient levels in the oceans, the rise of algae and the evolution of animals immediately suggest that these events must be linked.”

Fossil Reveals What Last Common Ancestor of Humans and Apes Looked Liked

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fossil-reveals-what-last-common-ancestor-of-humans-and-apes-looked-liked/

 

The most complete extinct-ape skull ever found reveals what the last common ancestor of all living apes and humans might have looked like, according to a new study.

The 13-million-year-old infant skull, which its discoverers nicknamed “Alesi,” was unearthed in Kenya in 2014. It likely belonged to a fruit-eating, slow-climbing primate that resembled a baby gibbon, the researchers said.

Among the living primates, humans are most closely related to the apes, which include the lesser apes (gibbons) and the great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans). These so-called hominoids — that is, the gibbons, great apes and humans — emerged and diversified during the Miocene epoch, approximately 23 million to 5 million years ago. (The last common ancestor that humans had with chimpanzees lived about 6 million to 7 million years ago.)

Much remains unknown about the common ancestors of living apes and humans from the critical time when these branches diverged. Fossil evidence from this part of the primate family tree is scarce, and consists mostly of isolated teeth and broken jaw fragments. As such, researchers were not sure what the last common ancestors of living apes and humans might have looked like, and even whether they originated in Africa or Eurasia. [See Photos of Alesi and the Kenya Excavation Site]

“The living apes are found all across Africa and Asia — chimps and gorillas in Africa, orangutans and gibbons in Asia — and there are many fossil apes found on both continents, and Europe as well,” study co-author Christopher Gilbert, a paleoanthropologist at Hunter College in New York, told Live Science. “So, as you can imagine, there are numerous possibilities for how that distribution came to be, and different researchers have suggested different hypotheses for where the common ancestor of the living apes and humans might be found.”

GREAT TIMING

Kenyan fossil hunter John Ekusi discovered the skull in 2014 in the Napudet area, west of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. He suggested its nickname, “Alesi,” because “ales” means “ancestor” in the local Turkana language.

“The Napudet locality offers us a rare glimpse of an African landscape 13 million years ago,” study co-author Craig Feibel, chair of the anthropology department at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said in a statement. “A nearby volcano buried the forest where the baby ape lived, preserving the fossil and countless trees. It also provided us with the critical volcanic minerals by which we were able to date the fossil.”

This is the first ape cranium unearthed from between 10 million and 14 million years ago, and the most complete one discovered from between 7 million and 17 million years ago. [In Photos: A Game-Changing Primate Discovery]

“Alesi came from exactly the right time and place to show us what the ancestors of all the modern apes and humans might have looked like,” study co-author Ellen Miller, a primatologist and paleoanthropologist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, told Live Science. “We never had information on that before — it was always a mystery.”

It remains uncertain how Alesi died. However, perhaps the infant was killed by the thick layers of ash from huge volcanic eruptions that covered the fossil, the researchers said.

BABY PRIMATE LOOKED LIKE GIBBON

The lemon-size skull still had the roots of its baby teeth, and none of the adult teeth had erupted from the jaw yet. The three-dimensional X-ray images taken of these adult teeth were so detailed that researchers could count their enamel layers, which were laid down over time like rings inside a tree, helping the scientists estimate that the baby primate was 16 months old when it died.

“From the teeth, we can tell it generally ate fruits,” Miller said.

The shape of the unerupted adult teeth revealed that Alesi belonged to a genus, or group of species, known as Nyanzapithecus, a sister group to the hominoids that was discovered about 30 years ago. However, Alesi’s teeth were much larger than those of other members of this genus, so the scientists declared that Alesi belonged to a new species, Nyanzipithecus alesi. (“Nyanza” is the province in western Kenya where the first specimen of Nyanzapithecus was found, and “pithecus” comes from the Greek word for “ape.”)

Nyanzapithecus alesi was part of a group of primates that existed in Africa for over 10 million years,” lead study author Isaiah Nengo, of Stony Brook University in New York, said in the statement. “What the discovery of Alesi shows is that this group was close to the origin of living apes and humans, and that this origin was African.”

Determining that the last common ancestors of living apes and humans originated in Africa is important because it helps scientists better understand how ancient climate, ecology, geography and other factors were key to their evolution. “It helps us understand and reconstruct how and why a certain lineage might have evolved,” Gilbert said.

The researchers cannot tell if Alesi was male or female, as the infant was too young for the features of the skull that distinguish the sexes to have emerged, the researchers said. However, the size of the skull and teeth do suggest that if Alesi had reached adulthood, it would have weighed about 24.9 lbs. (11.3 kilograms) at maturity. The researchers also noted that Alesi’s 6.16-cubic-inch (101 cubic centimeters) brain was about as big as that of a modern lemur of the same size.

The small snout of the skull would have made Alesi look like a baby gibbon. “Because they are probably close to the ancestor of all living apes, the specimen may help give us some sort of idea of what the common ancestor of all living apes and modern humans might have looked like, and because our specimen looks most similar to gibbons among living apes, it would potentially support the idea that the common ancestor of living apes and humans looked like a gibbon,” Gilbert said.

However, the shape of Alesi’s inner ear, which contains the balance organ of primates, suggests that Alesi was not capable of the rapid, acrobatic tree-swinging associated with gibbons.

“It probably had a more slow-climbing form of locomotion, more like [that of] a chimpanzee,” Miller said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the Aug. 10 issue of the journal Nature.

Gene Editing Spurs Hope for Transplanting Pig Organs Into Humans

In a bold scientific step that helps open the door to organ transplants from animals, researchers at Harvard and a private company have created gene-edited piglets cleansed of viruses that might cause disease in humans.

The advance, reported on Thursday in the journal Science, may make it possible one day to transplant livers, hearts and other organs from pigs into humans, a hope that experts had all but given up.

There were 33,600 organ transplants last year, and 116,800 patients on waiting lists, according Dr. David Klassen, chief medical officer at the United Network for Organ Sharing, a private, nonprofit organization that manages the nation’s transplant system.

If pig organs were shown to be safe and effective, “they could be a real game changer,” said Dr. Klassen, who was not involved in the new study. Dr. George Church of the Harvard group now says the first pig-to-human transplants could occur within two years.

The new research combines two great achievements in recent years — gene editing and cloning — and is unfolding quickly. But the work is novel and its course unpredictable, Dr. Klassen noted. It may be years before enough is known about the safety of pig organ transplants to allow them to be used widely.

Major religious groups have already weighed in on the ethical questions, however, generally concluding that pig organs are acceptable for lifesaving transplants, noted Dr. Jay Fishman, co-director of the transplant program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Pig heart valves already are routinely transplanted into patients.

(Leaders in the Jewish and Muslim communities, though, would not accept pig kidneys, reasoning that patients with kidney failure can survive with dialysis.)

The idea of using pigs as organ factories has tantalized investigators for decades. Porcine organs can be the right size for human transplantation, and in theory, similar enough to function in patients.

In the 1990s, scientists began pursuing the idea in earnest. But in 1998, Dr. Fishman and his colleagues discovered that hidden in pig DNA were genes for viruses that resembled those causing leukemia in monkeys.

When researchers grew pig cells next to human embryonic kidney cells in the laboratory, these viruses — known as retroviruses — spread to the human cells. Once infected, the human cells were able to infect other human cells.

Fears that pig organs would infect humans with bizarre retroviruses brought the research to a halt. But it was never clear how great this threat really was, and as years have gone by, many experts, including Dr. Fishman, have become less concerned.

Some patients with diabetes have received pig pancreas cells, hidden in a sort of sheath so the immune system will not reject them. And burn patients sometimes get grafts made of pig skin. The pig skin is eventually rejected by the body, but it was never meant to be permanent anyway.

There is no evidence that any of these patients were infected with porcine retroviruses. In any event, said Dr. A. Joseph Tector, a transplant surgeon at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, pig retroviruses are very sensitive to the drugs used to treat H.I.V.

“We don’t know that if we transplant pig organs with the viruses that they will transmit infections, and we don’t know that the infections are dangerous,” Dr. Fishman said. “I think the risk to society is very low.”

Can Gene Editing Actually Do That?

A new technique known as Crispr has revolutionized humans’ ability to edit DNA. See if you can identify whether a given development has already happened, could eventually happen or is pure fiction.

Dr. Church and his colleagues thought the retrovirus question could be resolved with Crispr, the new gene-editing technology. They took cells from pigs and snipped the viral DNA from their genomes. Then the scientists cloned the edited cells.

Each pig cell was brought back to its earliest developmental stage and then slipped into an egg, giving it the genetic material to allow the egg to develop into an embryo. The embryos were implanted in sows and grew into piglets that were genetically identical to the pig that supplied the initial cell.

Cloning often fails; most of the embryos and fetuses died before birth, and some piglets died soon after they were born. But Dr. Church and his colleagues ended up with 15 living piglets, the oldest now 4 months old. None have the retroviruses.

Dr. Church founded a company, eGenesis, in hopes of selling the genetically altered pig organs. Eventually, Dr. Church says, the company wants to engineer pigs with organs so compatible with humans that patients will not need to take anti-rejection drugs.

Dr. David Sachs, a professor of surgery at Columbia University, was skeptical that it would be straightforward to make pigs with such compatible organs.

“I am afraid that he may find these goals more difficult to achieve than he expects, but I would be happy to be mistaken,” said Dr. Sachs, who is also studying ways to create pigs suitable for organ donation.

Part of the organ rejection problem is already being solved with gene editing and cloning. It is an issue that emerged in the early 1980s when surgeons put a pig heart into a baboon. To their shock, the baboon died in minutes.

Researchers soon discovered that pig organs are covered with carbohydrate molecules that mark the organs for immediate destruction by human antibodies.

Dr. David Cooper, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and his colleagues, including Dr. Tector, have used gene editing and cloning to make pigs without the carbohydrates on the surfaces of their organs.

They successfully transplanted hearts and kidneys from those pigs into monkeys and baboons. So far, the animals have lived more than a year with no problems, Dr. Tector said.

They also gave insulin-producing islet cells from a pig to diabetic monkeys, and the monkeys lived for a year without requiring insulin. In partnership with United Therapeutics, the group has already built a farm for gene-edited pigs.

Dr. Church says he, too, is making pigs whose organs lack the carbohydrates, and he wants to combine the two advances so the organs also do not have retroviruses. The Alabama group, though, does not think pig retroviruses are a major concern.

Surgeons are used to evaluating the risks of infection from transplanted organs, Dr. Tector said. The advantage of the transplant to the desperately ill recipient often outweighs that risk.

To some, the idea of growing pigs to be organ factories is distasteful, if not unethical.

But, Dr. Cooper noted, the few thousand pigs grown for their organs would be a small fraction of the 100 million pigs a year that are killed for food in the United States. And, he said, the pigs would be anesthetized and killed humanely.

Many patients may prefer a human organ, Dr. Cooper acknowledged, but that is not always possible. “About 22 people a day die waiting for a transplant,” he said. “If you could help them with a pig organ, wouldn’t that be wonderful?”

Are ‘sea fleas’ to blame for bloody bites on Australian teen’s legs?

http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/07/health/sea-flea-bites-australian-teen-trnd/index.html

 

 

(CNN) A visit to a beach turned into a horror movie for a Melbourne, Australia, teen. The exact cause is a bit of a mystery, but tiny sea crustaceans may be to blame.

Sam Kanizay's feet were covered in what appeared to be thousands of bleeding pinholes.

After playing soccer with his friends, Sam Kanizay, 16, dipped his lower legs and feet into the familiar water of Brighton’s Dendy Street Beach on Saturday to soothe his aching muscles, according to CNN affiliate Seven News. What happened next was unexpected.
“I walked out of the water, saw what I thought was sand covering my ankles below my calf, shook it off quite violently, and it came off,” he told CNN affiliate Seven Network Australia. But what he shook from his legs wasn’t sand.
Jarrod Kanizay, Sam’s father, told the Post that when his son lifted his feet from the water, he saw blood. Lots of blood.
“He hobbled home pretty quickly. He rang me, actually, from outside,” Jarrod Kanizay told the Post. “He said, ‘Dad, you better come down outside.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Just come down!’ “
They discovered thousands of tiny bites on the teen’s legs, almost as if he had been pricked with a pin repeatedly.
“We thought we better clean off this bit of blood and then realized it wasn’t washing away,” Jane Kanizay, Sam’s mother, told Seven News.
“There was no stopping the bleeding,” his father told the Washington Post. “We just had to get him to hospital.”
At the local hospital, doctors attempted to stem the flow of blood, but it continued to run from the many pinhole-size bites on Sam’s feet and legs.
Sam said his pain was “up to an eight out of 10,” his father told the Post, adding that hospital staff were baffled by his injury.
Investigating on his own, Jarrod Kanizay put on two wetsuits, returned to where his son had soaked his feet and used some raw meat to lure the unknown pests into a pool net. He collected thousands of the mites, each about 2 millimeters long, according to the Post.
Later, he uploaded a video to YouTube of what he believes is the culprit feasting on chunks of raw meat he provided.
“On these bits of meat, they’ve sucked the blood out of that, and they remain attached to the flesh of that meat,” Jarrod Kanizay told Seven Network Australia.
The bleeding wouldn’t stop because of the anticoagulant being released by the crustaceans, according to a Facebook post by Museums Victoria. The organization’s marine biologist Genefor Walker-Smith examined samples captured by Kanizay and concluded that the likely culprits were “lysianassid amphipods, a type of scavenging crustacean.”
“Amphipods are sometimes referred to as ‘sea fleas,’ ” according to the post. “Media reports have described the attackers as ‘sea lice’ but that term is usually used to refer to isopods, a different group of crustaceans.”
Sam Kanizay lies in bed while his feet bleed.

Amphipods are “naturally-occurring scavengers” known to bite. However, they do not usually cause these kind of injuries, the post said.
It’s also possible they “contained an anti-coagulant, which would account for the inability to stop the flowing blood and that the very cold water may be the reason Sam didn’t feel the bites.”
Because they have no venomous properties, the damage will not be lasting; Sam will recover, according to the post.
In a Facebook postRichard Reina, an associate professor at Monash University’s School of Biological Sciences in Australia, refers to “sea lice” as the cause of Sam’s injuries.
“No open wound as far as I know, but it happened because he stood still in the water for a long time,” wrote Reina, who suggested that Sam didn’t realize the creatures were chewing on his feet and legs.
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“It’s a bit like if you allowed hundreds of mosquitoes to keep feeding on your arm for half an hour — you’d get an extreme reaction then too, but it’s not something that people normally do,” Reina wrote. He added that people should not be so concerned.
“There’s no need to stay out of the water,” Reina wrote.

Blowing Up the Big Marijuana IQ Myth—The Science Points to Zero Effect on Your Smarts

“Marijuana makes people retarded, especially when they’re young.” So claimed conservative commentator Ann Coulter while speaking at Politicon last week.

But while such inflammatory claims by culture warriors like Coulter are to be expected – and may readily be dismissed – the notion that smoking pot will have lasting negative impacts on intelligence is a longstanding one, and a claim that is all too often made by those on both sides of the political spectrum. Yet the latest science finds little to no factual basis for this contention.

Longitudinal data just recently published online in the journal Addiction reports that pot smoking is not independently associated with adverse effects on the developing brain. A team of investigators from the United States and the United Kingdom evaluated whether marijuana use is directly associated with changes over time in neuropsychological performance in a nationally representative cohort of adolescent twins. Authors reported that “family background factors,” but not the use of cannabis negatively impacted adolescents’ cognitive performance.

They wrote: “[W]e found that youth who used cannabis … had lower IQ at age 18, but there was little evidence that cannabis use was associated with IQ decline from age 12 to 18. Moreover, although cannabis use was associated with lower IQ and poorer executive functions at age 18, these associations were generally not apparent within pairs of twins from the same family, suggesting that family background factors explain why adolescents who use cannabis perform worse on IQ and executive function tests.”

Investigators concluded, “Short-term cannabis use in adolescence does not appear to cause IQ decline or impair executive functions, even when cannabis use reaches the level of dependence.”

They’re not alone in their conclusions. In 2016, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Minnesota performed a similar longitudinal analysis regarding marijuana’s potential impact on intelligence quotient in a separate cohort of adolescent twins. They reported no dose-response relationship between pot exposure and IQ decline at age 20, and observed no significant differences in performance among those who used marijuana and their non-using twins.

Investigators concluded: “In the largest longitudinal examination of marijuana use and IQ change, … we find little evidence to suggest that adolescent marijuana use has a direct effect on intellectual decline. … [T]he lack of a dose–response relationship, and an absence of meaningful differences between discordant siblings lead us to conclude that the deficits observed in marijuana users are attributable to confounding factors that influence both substance initiation and IQ rather than a neurotoxic effect of marijuana.”

The UCLA findings mimicked those of separate longitudinal data published earlier that year in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. Investigators in that study assessed IQ and educational performance in a cohort of 2,235 adolescent twins. They too reported that after adjusting for potential confounds (such as the use of tobacco and alcohol), teens who used cannabis “did not differ from never-users on either IQ or educational performance.”

Florida State researchers similarly examined the issue earlier this year. Writing in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, they reported on the impact of marijuana exposure on intelligence scores in subjects over a 14-year period (ages 12 to 26). They concluded, “[O]ur findings did not reveal a significant association between cumulative marijuana use and changes in intelligence scores.”

Nonetheless, political opponents of cannabis policy reform continue to opinethat pot smoking “reduces IQ by 6-8 points.” This claim is derived from a widely publicized 2012 New Zealand study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It reported that the persistent use of cannabis from early adolescence to adulthood was associated with slightly lower IQ by age 38.

However, a followup review of the data published later in the same journal suggested that the observed changes were the result of investigators’ failure to properly control for confounding variables, primarily the socioeconomic differences between users and non-users, and were not unduly influenced by subjects’ cannabis use history.

A later paper by the lead investigator of the New Zealand study similarly reported that the presence of confounders make it difficult to impossible to attribute changes in teens’ academic performance on pot use alone, finding that the effects of persistent adolescent cannabis use on academic performance are “non-significant after controlling for persistent alcohol and tobacco use.”

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and serves as a senior policy advisor for Freedom Leaf, Inc. He is the co-author of the book, Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chelsea Green, 2013).

Were the Ancient Egyptians Black or White? Scientists Now Know

Egyptologists, writers, scholars, and others, have argued the race of the ancient Egyptians since at least the 1970’s. Some today believe they were Sub-Saharan Africans. We can see this interpretation portrayed in Michael Jackson’s 1991 music video for “Remember the Time,” from his Dangerousalbum. The video, a 10 minute mini-film, includes performances by Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson.

Reactionaries meanwhile, say that there’s never been any significant black civilizations, an utter falsehood6. There were several in fact, highly advanced African empires and kingdoms throughout history. Curiously, some extreme Right groups have even used blood group data to proclaim a Nordic origin to King Tut and his brethren.

The problem, it was thought that mummy DNA couldn’t be sequenced. But a group of international researchers, using unique methods, have overcome the barriers to do just that. They found that the ancient Egyptians were most closely related to1 the peoples of the Near East, particularly from the Levant. This is the Eastern Mediterranean which today includes the countries of Turkey, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. The mummies used were from the New Kingdom and a later period, when Egypt was under Roman rule.

Egyptian mummy. British Museum. Flikr.

Modern Egyptians share 8% of their genome with central Africans, far more than ancient ones, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Communications. The influx of Sub-Saharan genes only occurred within the last 1,500 years. This could be attributed to the trans-Saharan slave trade or just from regular, long distance trade between the two regions. Improved mobility on the Nile during this period increased trade with the interior, researchers claim.

Egypt over the span of antiquity was conquered many times including by Alexander the Great, by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and more. Researchers wanted to know if these constant waves of invaders caused any major genetic changes in the populace over time. Group leader Wolfgang Haak at the Max Planck Institute in Germany said, “The genetics of the Abusir el-Meleq community did not undergo any major shifts during the 1,300 year timespan we studied, suggesting that the population remained genetically relatively unaffected by foreign conquest and rule.”

The study was led by archeogeneticist Johannes Krause, also of the Max Planck Institute. Historically, there’s been a problem finding intact DNA from ancient Egyptian mummies. “The hot Egyptian climate, the high humidity levels in many tombs and some of the chemicals used in mummification techniques, contribute to DNA degradation and are thought to make the long-term survival of DNA in Egyptian mummies unlikely,” Dr. Krause said.

The mummified remains of Queen Hatshepsut wet-nurse Sitre-In. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. 2007. Getty Images.

It was also thought that, even if genetic material were recovered, it may not be reliable. Despite this, Krause and colleagues have been able to introduce robust DNA sequencing and verification techniques, and completed the first successful genomic testing on ancient Egyptian mummies.1 

Each came from Abusir el-Meleq, an archaeological site situated along the Nile, 70 miles (115 km) south of Cairo. This necropolis there houses mummies which display aspects revealing a dedication to the cult of Osiris, the green-skinned god of the afterlife.

First, the mitochondrial genomes from 90 of mummies were taken. From these, Krause and colleagues found that they could get the entire genomes from just three of the mummies in all. For this study, scientists took teeth, bone, and soft tissue samples. The teeth and bones offered the most DNA. They were protected by the soft tissue which has been preserved through the embalming process.

Researchers took these samples back to a lab in Germany. They began by sterilizing the room. Then they put the samples under UV radiation for an hour to sterilize them. From there, they were able to perform DNA sequencing.

An Egyptian necropolis. Getty Images.

Researchers also gathered historical and archaeological data, to give their discoveries some context. They wanted to know what changes had occurred over time. To find out, they compared the mummies’ genomes to that of 100 modern Egyptians and 125 Ethiopians. “For 1,300 years, we see complete genetic continuity,” Krause said.

The oldest mummy sequenced was from the New Kingdom, 1,388 BCE, when Egypt was at the height of its power and glory. The youngest was from 426 CE, when the country was ruled from Rome. The ability to acquire genomic data on ancient Egyptians is a dramatic achievement, which opens up new avenues of research.

One limitation according to their report, “all our genetic data were obtained from a single site in Middle Egypt and may not be representative for all of ancient Egypt.” In southern Egypt they say, the genetic makeup of the people may have been different, being closer to the interior of the continent.

Researchers in future want to determine exactly when Sub-Saharan African genes seeped into the Egyptian genome and why. They’ll also want to know where ancient Egyptians themselves came from. To do so, they’ll have to identify older DNA from, as Krause said, “Back further in time, in prehistory.”

Using high-throughput DNA sequencing and cutting-edge authentication techniques, researchers proved they could retrieve reliable DNA from mummies, despite the unforgiving climate and damaging embalming techniques.

Further testing will likely contribute much knowledge to our understanding of the ancient Egyptians and perhaps even those from other places as well, helping to fill in the gaps in humanity’s collective memory.

In Breakthrough, Scientists Edit a Dangerous Mutation From Genes in Human Embryos

Scientists for the first time have successfully edited genes in human embryos to repair a common and serious disease-causing mutation, producing apparently healthy embryos, according to a study published on Wednesday.

The research marks a major milestone and, while a long way from clinical use, it raises the prospect that gene editing may one day protect babies from a variety of hereditary conditions.

But the achievement is also an example of human genetic engineering, once feared and unthinkable, and is sure to renew ethical concerns that some might try to design babies with certain traits, like greater intelligence or athleticism.

Scientists have long feared the unforeseen medical consequences of making inherited changes to human DNA. The cultural implications may be just as disturbing: Some experts have warned that unregulated genetic engineering may lead to a new form of eugenics, in which people with means pay to have children with enhanced traits even as those with disabilities are devalued.

The study, published in the journal Nature, comes just months after a national scientific committee recommended new guidelines for modifying embryos, easing blanket proscriptions but urging the technique be used only for dire medical problems.

 

“We’ve always said in the past gene editing shouldn’t be done, mostly because it couldn’t be done safely,” said Richard Hynes, a cancer researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who co-led the committee. “That’s still true, but now it looks like it’s going to be done safely soon,” he said, adding that the research is “a big breakthrough.”

“What our report said was, once the technical hurdles are cleared, then there will be societal issues that have to be considered and discussions that are going to have to happen. Now’s the time.”

Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University, with colleagues in California, China and South Korea, reported that they repaired dozens of embryos, fixing a mutation that causes a common heart condition that can lead to sudden death later in life.

If embryos with the repaired mutation were allowed to develop into babies, they would not only be disease-free but also would not transmit the disease to descendants.

The researchers averted two important safety problems: They produced embryos in which all cells — not just some — were mutation-free, and they avoided creating unwanted extra mutations.

“It feels a bit like a ‘one small step for (hu)mans, one giant leap for (hu)mankind’ moment,” Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist who helped discover the gene-editing method used, called CRISPR-Cas9, said in an email.

Gene Editing in Embryos
Scientists tried two techniques to remove a dangerous mutation. In the first, genetic “scissors” were inserted into fertilized eggs. The mutation was repaired in some of the resulting embryos but not always in every cell. The second method worked better: By injecting the “scissors” along with the sperm into the egg, more embryos emerged with repaired genes in every cell.

FIRST TECHNIQUE
When gene-editing components were introduced into a fertilized egg, some embryos contained a patchwork of repaired and unrepaired cells.

“I expect these results will be encouraging to those who hope to use human embryo editing for either research or eventual clinical purposes,” said Dr. Doudna, who was not involved in the study.

Much more research is needed before the method could be tested in clinical trials, currently impermissible under federal law. But if the technique is found to work safely with this and other mutations, it might help some couples who could not otherwise have healthy children.

Potentially, it could apply to any of more than 10,000 conditions caused by specific inherited mutations. Researchers and experts said those might include breast and ovarian cancer linked to BRCA mutations, as well as diseases like Huntington’s, Tay-Sachs, beta thalassemia, and even sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis or some cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

“You could certainly help families who have been blighted by a horrible genetic disease,” said Robin Lovell-Badge, a professor of genetics and embryology at the Francis Crick Institute in London, who was not involved in the study.

“You could quite imagine that in the future the demand would increase. Maybe it will still be small, but for those individuals it will be very important.”

The researchers also discovered something unexpected: a previously unknown way that embryos repair themselves.

In other cells in the body, the editing process is carried out by genes that copy a DNA template introduced by scientists. In these embryos, the sperm cell’s mutant gene ignored that template and instead copied the healthy DNA sequence from the egg cell.

“We were so surprised that we just couldn’t get this template that we made to be used,” said Shoukhrat Mitalipov, director of the Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy at Oregon Health and Science University and senior author of the study. “It was very new and unusual.”

The research significantly improves upon previous efforts. In three sets of experiments in China since 2015, researchers seldom managed to get the intended change into embryonic genes.

And some embryos had cells that did not get repaired — a phenomenon called mosaicism that could result in the mutation being passed on — as well as unplanned mutations that could cause other health problems.

In February, a National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee endorsed modifying embryos, but only to correct mutations that cause “a serious disease or condition” and when no “reasonable alternatives” exist.
Sheldon Krimsky, a bioethicist at Tufts University, said the main uncertainty about the new technique was whether “reasonable alternatives” to gene editing already exist.

As the authors themselves noted, many couples use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to screen embryos at fertility clinics, allowing only healthy ones to be implanted. For these parents, gene editing could help by repairing mutant embryos so that more disease-free embryos would be available for implantation.

Hank Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford, said creating fewer defective embryos also would reduce the number discarded by fertility clinics, which some people oppose.
The larger issue is so-called germline engineering, which refers to changes made to embryo that are inheritable.

“If you’re in one camp, it’s a horror to be avoided, and if you’re in the other camp, it’s desirable,” Dr. Greely said. “That’s going to continue to be the fight, whether it’s a feature or a bug.”

For now, the fight is theoretical. Congress has barred the Food and Drug Administration from considering clinical trials involving germline engineering. And the National Institutes of Health is prohibited from funding gene-editing research in human embryos. (The new study was funded by Oregon Health and Science University, the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea, and several foundations.)

The authors say they hope that once the method is optimized and studied with other mutations, officials in the United States or another country will allow regulated clinical trials.

“I think it could be widely used, if it’s proven safe,” said Dr. Paula Amato, a co-author of the study and reproductive endocrinologist at O.H.S.U. Besides creating more healthy embryos for in vitro fertilization, she said, it could be used when screening embryos is not an option or to reduce arduous IVF cycles for women.

Dr. Mitalipov has pushed the scientific envelope before, generating ethical controversy with a so-called three-parent baby procedure that would place the nucleus of the egg of a woman with defective cellular mitochondria into the egg from a healthy woman. The F.D.A. has not approved trials of the method, but Britain may begin one soon.

The new study involves hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease affecting about one in 500 people, which can cause sudden heart failure, often in young athletes.

It is caused by a mutation in a gene called MYBPC3. If one parent has a mutated copy, there is a 50 percent chance of passing the disease to children.
Using sperm from a man with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and eggs from 12 healthy women, the researchers created fertilized eggs. Injecting CRISPR-Cas9, which works as a genetic scissors, they snipped out the mutated DNA sequence on the male MYBPC3 gene.

They injected a synthetic healthy DNA sequence into the fertilized egg, expecting that the male genome would copy that sequence into the cut portion. That is how this gene-editing process works in other cells in the body, and in mouse embryos, Dr. Mitalipov said.

Instead, the male gene copied the healthy sequence from the female gene. The authors don’t know why it happened.

Maybe human sex cells or gametes evolved to repair themselves because they are the only cells that transmit genes to offspring and “need special protection,” said Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a co-author and geneticist at the Salk Institute.

Out of 54 embryos, 36 emerged mutation-free, a significant improvement over natural circumstances in which about half would not have the mutation. Another 13 embryos also emerged without the mutation, but not in every cell.

The researchers tried to eliminate the problem by acting at an earlier stage, injecting the egg with the sperm and CRISPR-Cas9 simultaneously, instead of waiting to inject CRISPR-Cas9 into the already fertilized egg.

That resulted in 42 of 58 embryos, 72 percent, with two mutation-free copies of the gene in every cell. They also found no unwanted mutations in the embryos, which were destroyed after about three days.

The method was not perfect. The remaining 16 embryos had unwanted additions or deletions of DNA. Dr. Mitalipov said he believed fine-tuning the process would make at least 90 percent of embryos mutation-free.

And for disease-causing mutations on maternal genes, the same process should occur, with the father’s healthy genetic sequence being copied, he said.

But the technique will not work if both parents have two defective copies. Then, scientists would have to determine how to coax one gene to copy a synthetic DNA sequence, Dr. Mitalipov said.

Otherwise, he said, it should work with many diseases, “a variety of different heritable mutations.”
R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist at University of Wisconsin at Madison, who led the committee with Dr. Hynes, said the new discovery could also yield more information about causes of infertility and miscarriages.

She doubts a flood of couples will have “edited children.”

“Nobody’s going to do this for trivial reasons,” Dr. Charo said. “Sex is cheaper and it’s more fun than IVF, so unless you’ve got a real need, you’re not going to use it.”

First editing of human embryos carried out in United States

(Reuters) – Technology that allows alteration of genes in a human embryo has been used for the first time in the United States, according to Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, which carried out the research.

The OHSU research is believed to have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases, according to Technology Review, which first reported the news.

None of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days, according to the report.

Some countries have signed a convention prohibiting the practice on concerns it could be used to create so-called designer babies.

Results of the peer-reviewed study are expected to be published soon in a scientific journal, according to OHSU spokesman Eric Robinson.

The research, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, head of OHSU’s Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy, involves a technology known as CRISPR that has opened up new frontiers in genetic medicine because of its ability to modify genes quickly and efficiently.

CRISPR works as a type of molecular scissors that can selectively trim away unwanted parts of the genome, and replace it with new stretches of DNA.

 

In December 2015, scientists and ethicists at an international meeting held at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington said it would be “irresponsible” to use gene editing technology in human embryos for therapeutic purposes, such as to correct genetic diseases, until safety and efficacy issues are resolved.

But earlier this year, NAS and the National Academy of Medicine said scientific advances make gene editing in human reproductive cells “a realistic possibility that deserves serious consideration.”

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