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Gene-edited Babies, Most Influential Film Of All Time, Marijuana & Memory

Technology is a double-edged sword, and it is even truer in the case of gene editing, a revolutionary technique that involves inserting, replacing or removing DNA of a human embryo.In this week's "Did you know" column, we bring you news about the world's first gene-edited babies, the top influential films and directors, and the association between cannabis abstinence and memory improvement in young adults.

Stunning misstep or Notable achievement?

In what could be a stunning medical first, He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist, on November 26, claimed that he has created gene-edited babies by using the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to give them HIV immunity. The twins were born this month to a couple where the father is HIV positive.

The babies are said to carry edited CCR5. The gene CCR5 is considered a 'doorway' for HIV to enter and infect immune system cells. The scientist claims to have disabled the CCR5 gene in the embryos before they were implanted into the mother.

However this shocking medical advancement has left the scientific community aghast, as it feels that it is too early to have used the gene-editing technique on human embryos.

Meanwhile, terming that He Jiankui's work has violated laws and regulations in the country, China has halted all scientific projects of the scientist.

A statement regarding He's claims was released on November 29 by organizers of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, and this is what they have to say, "At this summit we heard an unexpected and deeply disturbing claim that human embryos had been edited and implanted, resulting in a pregnancy and the birth of twins. We recommend an independent assessment to verify this claim and to ascertain whether the claimed DNA modifications have occurred. Even if the modifications are verified, the procedure was irresponsible and failed to conform with international norms. Its flaws include an inadequate medical indication, a poorly designed study protocol, a failure to meet ethical standards for protecting the welfare of research subjects, and a lack of transparency in the development, review, and conduct of the clinical procedures".

The most influential film of all time is...

Movies, termed as the seventh art form (after architecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry and dance), are part and parcel of our lives. They not only reflect our society, but also wield the power to influence the society.

A study, which analysed a database consisting of around 47,000 international movies, has identified the top 20 movies by influence centrality, and has ranked The Wizard of Oz (1939) as the most influential film of all time, followed by Star Wars (1977) and Psycho (1960). All the movies that made it to the top 20 have been released before the 80's, and most of them even before the 40's.

Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma have been ranked the top three directors with the most impressive careers in the entire history of cinema, while Samuel L. Jackson, Clint Eastwood and Tom Cruise have made it to list of top three

The study is published in the open access journal Applied Network Science.

Cannabis abstinence and memory...

At a time when more states and countries are legalizing marijuana even for recreational use, researchers of Massachusetts General Hospital, led by Randi Melissa Schuster, have made some interesting observations.

According to the researchers, a study conducted to test whether 30 days of cannabis abstinence is associated with memory improvements in adolescents and young adults suggests that participants who gave up pot showed improvement in memory that appear to occur largely in the first week following last use. There was no effect of abstinence on the participants'' ability to pay attention.

The study involved 88 adolescents and young adults (aged 16-25 years) who used cannabis regularly.

The findings are reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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