bioethics

Lab Notes: A New Class Brings CRISPR to the People

The announcement came in June. Berkeley Extension, the continuing education arm of UC Berkeley, was offering its first-ever introductory courseCRISPR Genome Editing: From Biology to Technology—on the revolutionary new tool that allows scientists to make precise edits in the genome. A lab and lecture course on CRISPR for anyone who has the interest (and money) to enroll? What a crazy idea. It seemed a bit like offering a workshop on how to enrich plutonium.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Meet CRISPR: Humanity’s Shiny New Tool

One of biology’s wilder facts is that we’re all family. You and me, sure, but also me and a mushroom. Triceratops shared genes with you. So does the virus that makes you cough, and a rosebush. Bacteria left us on the tree of life around 2.7 billion years ago, but the wet world they came from is still ours: One code runs all of life. The same proteins that imprint memories in your neurons, for example, do so in octopi, ravens, and sea slugs. This genetic conservation means tricks from one species can be hijacked. If you stick a jellyfish gene in a monkey, it’ll glow green.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Intolerable Genius: Berkeley’s Most Controversial Nobel Laureate

IN THE SUMMER OF 1984 the senior scientists of Cetus Corp., a Berkeley biotech company, found themselves in a bind. One of their employees, a promising young scientist named Kary Mullis, had dreamed up a technique to exponentially replicate tiny scraps of DNA. He called it polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and if it worked it would change the world and likely earn Cetus a mountain of money. The only problem was Mullis was an interpersonal wrecking ball.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Blood Work: The Citizen Sleuth Using Genealogy to ID the Dead

ON APRIL 24, 1981, THE BODY OF A YOUNG WOMAN with auburn braids and a fringed jacket was discovered off the side of a road in Troy, Ohio.

She had been strangled to death only hours before. Authorities took DNA samples but couldn’t find a match for the woman. For decades, she was described only by the clothes on her back: “Buckskin Girl.”

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Who Gets to be a Woman in the Olympics?

The debate raging about testosterone tests in track and field will come to an ugly climax in Rio, and reasonable people on both sides agree it is unfair that the ugliness has landed squarely on the shoulders of women like South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya.

Innate or Learned Prejudice? Turns Out Even the Blind Aren’t Color Blind on Race

Stephen Colbert’s assertion notwithstanding, none of us is color blind. Not even the blind, it turns out. That’s according to the work of Osagie Obasogie, law professor at UC Hastings who earned his doctorate in sociology from UC Berkeley. In 2005, he began interviewing more than a hundred people who had been blind since birth, asking how they understood race. Were they conscious of it? Did it shape how they interacted with people? Could blind people, in fact, be racist?

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Learning to Listen: Why Better Health Care May Start with a Simple “How Are You?”

After her second above-the-knee amputation, Ms. G., a 56-year-old woman with diabetes mellitus, started refusing her dialysis and wouldn’t tell the medical team why. Jodi Halpern, hen just a trainee on the psychiatric service, was sent to investigate. On entering the hospital room, Halpern recalls finding the woman in agonizing pain. When Halpern sat down to talk to her, Ms. G. eventually opened up and explained that her husband was divorcing her because he no longer loved her after her amputations. Halpern recalls explaining to her supervisors that Ms. G.

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.
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