Womb on a Chip
Teruo Fujii of the University of Tokyo in Japan and his colleagues are building a microfluidic chip to nurture the first stages of pregnancy. They hope, eventually, to create a fully automated artificial uterus in which egg and sperm are fed in at one end and an early embryo comes out the other, ready for implanting in a real mother. They say using such a device could improve the success rate of IVF.
Womb-on-a-chip may boost IVF successes
Brave New Babies
The children of the future may be conceived and spend their first few days of development on a computer-controlled chip.
In a move recalling Aldous Huxley’s famous production lines for making babies in Brave New World, researchers in the US are building a “chip” that can automatically carry out all the steps involved in IVF, from fertilising eggs to preparing embryos for implantation. Ultimately, such devices—which amount to artificial reproductive tracts—may even be able to sort and test embryos for genetic flaws.
So far researchers David Beebe and Matthew Wheeler have built prototypes that can carry out the major steps involved in IVF, though not all on the same chip. Far more mouse embryos develop successfully on these devices than by traditional methods.
The researchers say they expect the technology will first be used for livestock production, but their eventual aim is to use it for human embryos.
Brave New Babies
Moving the Chip Inside
…scientists are working on the holy grail of microbiology – an in vivo lab-on-a-chip [or Micro Electro Mechanical Systems MEMS].
…researchers are developing technology that could lead to tiny machines that, when implanted in the body – could monitor hormone levels – release drugs periodically and even record data. Such devices…could also serve as birth control by preventing ovulation, or facilitate an entire pregnancy by helping to fertilize the egg and monitor the growing embryo.
Internal embryo monitors of the future would have to be self-contained in the uterus, and they’d have to be able to detect the smallest changes.
Once scientists have mastered these micromachines, the female reproductive system may be the best place to try them out. …the uterus is ‘immune privileged,’ meaning it’s unusual tolerant of foreign material – which includes not only sperm, but also tiny silicon machines.
…in the future, getting pregnant might involve handpicking an egg fertilized by prescreened sperm on a controlled dynamic chip and monitoring it with microscopic mechanical nurses.
mental_floss magazine edition
For nearly three decades, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Fogel and a small clutch of colleagues have researched what the size and shape of the human body say about economic and social changes throughout history, and vice versa.
Their research has spawned not only a new branch of historical study but also a provocative theory that technology has sped human evolution in an unprecedented way during the past century.
Now Cambridge University Press is publishing the capstone of this inquiry, “The Changing Body: Health, Nutrition, and Human Development in the Western World Since 1700,” just a few weeks shy of Fogel’s 85th birthday.
The book, which sums up the work of dozens of researchers on one of the most ambitious projects undertaken in economic history, is sure to renew debates over Fogel’s groundbreaking theories about what some regard as the most significant development in humanity’s long history.
Fogel and his co-authors — Roderick Floud, Bernard Harris and Sok Chul Hong — maintain that “in most if not quite all parts of the world, the size, shape and longevity of the human body have changed more substantially, and much more rapidly, during the past three centuries than over many previous millennia.” What’s more, they write, this alteration has come about within a time frame that is “minutely short by the standards of Darwinian evolution.”
“The rate of technological and human physiological change in the 20th century has been remarkable,” Fogel said in an phone interview from Chicago, where he is the director of the Center for Population Economics at the University of Chicago’s business school. “Beyond that, a synergy between the improved technology and physiology is more than the simple addition of the two.”
This “technophysio evolution,” powered by advances in food production and public health, has so outpaced traditional evolution, the authors argue, that people today stand apart not just from every other species, but from all previous generations of Homo sapiens as well.
“I don’t know that there is a bigger story in human history than the improvements in health, which include height, weight, disability and longevity,” said Samuel Preston, one of the world’s leading demographers and a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania.
Without the 20th century’s improvements in nutrition, sanitation and medicine, only half of the current U.S. population would be alive today, he said.
To take just a few examples:
The average adult man in 1850 in America stood about 5 feet 7 inches and weighed about 146 pounds; someone born then was expected to live until about 45. In the 1980s the typical man in his early 30s was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed about 174 pounds and was likely to pass his 75th birthday.
Across the Atlantic, at the time of the French Revolution, a 30-something Frenchman weighed about 110 pounds, compared with 170 pounds now.
And in Norway an average 22-year-old man was about 5½ inches taller at the end of the 20th century (5 feet 10.7 inches) than in the middle of the 18th century (5 feet 5.2 inches).
Fogel and his colleagues’ great achievement was to figure out a way to measure some of that gain in body size, Preston said.
“The Changing Body” is full of statistical tables and graphs that include the heights of girls in Croatia and Germany; the caloric energy derived from potatoes, fish and wine; and the average annual allowance of grains and meat for widows in Middlesex County, Mass., from 1654 to 1799 — a testament to both the staggering accumulation of information and the collaborative nature of the enterprise.
But the basic argument is rather simple: that the health and nutrition of pregnant mothers and their children contribute to the strength and longevity of the next generation. If babies are deprived of sufficient nutrition in the womb and early in life, they will be more fragile and more vulnerable to diseases later.
These weakened adults will, in turn, produce weaker offspring in a self-reinforcing spiral.
Technology rescued humankind from centuries of physical maladies and malnutrition, Fogel argues. Before the 19th century, most people were caught in an endless cycle of subsistence farming.
A colonial-era farmer, for example, worked about 78 hours during a 5½-day week. People needed more food to grow and gain strength, but they were unable to produce more food without being stronger.
One thing Fogel did not expect when he first started his research was that “overnutrition” would become the primary health problem in the United States and other Western nations.
For years, reproductive specialists have been helping people become parents, even enabling them to choose the sex of their baby.
One fertility doctor is taking things a step further, offering what some are calling “designer babies,” as Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman reports.
If you could design your baby’s features, would you? According to L.A.’s Fertility Institute, prospective parents can select eye color, hair color and more.
The technology is called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD. It was created to screen for disease, then used for gender selection. Now this clinic plans to allow parents to select physical traits.
“I would predict that by next year, we will have determined sex with 100 percent certainty on a baby, and we will have determined eye color with about an 80 percent accuracy rate,” said fertility specialist Dr. Jeff Steinberg, director of Fertility Institute.
Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg is a pioneer in in-vitro fertilization.
“I think it’s very important that we not bury our head in the sand and pretend these advances are not happening,” Dr. Steinberg said.
Kirsten and Matt Landon used his clinic to select the sex of their daughter. Choosing other genetic traits intrigues them.
“I would have considered trait selection as an option, but not necessarily have gone with it,” Matt Landon said.
A recent U.S. survey suggests most people support the notion of building a better baby when it comes to eliminating serious diseases. But Dr. Steinberg says using technology for cosmetic reasons shouldn’t scare people away.
“Of course, once I’ve got this science, am I not to provide this to my patients? I’m a physician. I want to provide everything science gives me to my patients,” Dr. Steinberg said.
3 March 2009
Can you imagine a future where parents can pick the eye color, hair color, skin color and height of their new baby? Does that sound like some wild dream of the future? Well, the future is now. One Los Angeles fertility clinic is now offering to design babies to the exact specifications of the parents.
The Fertility Institute is calling this new technology “cosmetic medicine”. Do you want your daughter to look like Barbie? Done. Just order up a tall, light-skinned, green-eyed, daughter with blonde hair and the clinic will do the rest.
This technology is based on something called “pre-implantation genetic diagnosis”, or PGD, which doctors have been using the last few years to identify potentially deadly diseases in embryos. The technology has become so advanced that now doctors can not just spot potential diseases, but they can actually get enough information from an embryonic cell that they can identify thousands of characteristics of a single embryo.
The Fertility Institute anticipates that the very first “cosmetic medicine” baby will be born next year.
So how much does this cost? Only about 18,000 dollars.
While some are applauding this new technology, others are saying that this is yet another dangerous step down the path of transhumanism.
New L.A. Clinic Lets Parents Genetically Design Their New Babyhttp://futurestorm.blogspot.com/2009/03/new-la-clinic-lets-parents-genetically.html
Genetically Modified Humans: Here and More Coming Soon
Israeli agents who kidnapped Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann from Argentina in 1960 found the notorious death camp doctor Josef Mengele but let him get away, one of the operatives said Tuesday.
Mengele was one of the most wanted Nazi war criminals, a doctor who conducted cruel experiments on twins and dwarves at the Auschwitz concentration camp and killed children with lethal injections. He selected prisoners who would be subjected to his experiments and sent others straight to their death in gas chambers.
Rafi Eitan, now an 81-year-old Israeli Cabinet minister, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he and other Mossad agents located Mengele living in a Buenos Aires apartment with his wife at the time of Eichmann’s capture in 1960.
But they decided that trying to nab him would risk sabotaging the capture of Eichmann, who implemented Adolf Hitler’s “final solution” to kill European Jewry and was deemed a more important target.
It was known that Mengele was living in Buenos Aires around the time of Eichmann’s capture. But Eitan’s comments indicated the Israelis were closer to him than had been previously thought — and shed light on why they decided to abandon an attempt to catch him.
“When you have one operation, you’re taking a certain level of risk. If you’re doing a second operation at the same time, you double the risk … not only for the second operation but for the first one, as well,” Eitan said.
Eichmann was responsible for implementing Hitler’s plan that exterminated 6 million Jews during World War II. After his capture, he was spirited to Israel, tried and executed.
Mengele was infamous for his sadistic experiments in the death camps. He injected dye into the eyes of twins to change their color and sewed them together to try to create artificially conjoined twins. He ordered twins killed simultaneously and then dissected for examination of their organs. His horrors earned him the title “Angel of Death.”
After the war, Mengele fled Germany under an assumed name and ended up in Argentina, a popular refuge for many senior Nazi officials. Informants working with the Mossad had seen him while the agents were in Buenos Aires, Eitan said.
The Mossad men located Mengele’s apartment, and on one specific day even knew he was at home, Eitan said. But the next day, Mengele left with his wife for what the agents believed would be a temporary absence.
At the time, the Israelis had already snatched Eichmann and were holding him in a safe house while they waited to whisk him out of the country. They feared that if they waited for Mengele to come back, the Eichmann operation would be discovered. Eitan said they decided it was not worth the risk.
“When I have a bird in my hand, I don’t start looking for the bird in the bush. I’ll take the bird in my hand, put it in a cage, and then deal with the one in the bush,” Eitan said.
By the time the Mossad sent a team back to Buenos Aires a few weeks later, it was too late.
“After Eichmann’s capture was made public, he disappeared entirely,” Eitan said.
After missing him in Argentina, the Mossad had another shot at catching Mengele in Sao Paolo, Brazil, two years later, Eitan said. But the organization had other “operational priorities,” and Mengele got away again. He would not say what those priorities were and the Mossad then lost track of Mengele.
Having eluded capture for 34 years, Mengele drowned in Brazil in early 1979 and experts identified the body as his six years later.
An October 1992 U.S. Justice Department report on Mengele’s whereabouts and activities after World War II provides a timeline that raises questions about Mengele’s whereabouts in 1960. It says Mengele arrived in Argentina in 1949 but left in 1959 and became a naturalized citizen of Paraguay. After Eichmann was captured in May 1960, Mengele moved to Brazil, according to the report by the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which tracks Nazis.
David Marwell, a former chief investigator at the OSI, said Mengele did move around South America and even if he left for Paraguay in 1959, he could have been moving between Paraguay and Argentina until Eichman’s capture, which forced him underground.
Marwell said it has long been known that Mengele escaped from Argentina and Eitan’s claim that the Israelis had known his whereabouts but let him get away was virtually impossible to verify.
“It does not add much to our understanding of it and it would be impossible to research because you’re talking about an internal decision, so you take him at his word,” he told the AP.
OSI documents also show that Isser Harel, who oversaw the kidnap operation, told the OSI the Israelis attempted to capture Mengele in May 1960 at the same time they caught Eichmann. According to Harel, Mengele was able to escape, going underground after reports of his whereabouts appeared in the media, the OSI documents say.
Asked about Eitan’s account which first appeared in Israeli media this week, historian Avner Shalev, chairman of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial authority, said the Mossad made the right decision to concentrate on Eichmann because he was more important than Mengele.
After Eichmann was caught, the Mossad considered expanding its activities targeting Nazis, said Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter who heads the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office. But the organization eventually shifted its resources elsewhere, he said, and Eichmann remained one of only two significant Nazi captures the Israeli secret service had.
Eitan, who headed the shadowy “Lekem” unit of the defense ministry, took responsibility for the operation that recruited Jonathan Pollard, an American naval analyst who was caught spying for Israel and sentenced to life in prison in one of the most damaging episodes in Israel-American relations.
Associated Press reporter Carley Petesch and investigative researcher Randy Herschaft contributed to this report from New York.
On the Net:
OSI Mengele report: http://tinyurl.com/5ktr2b
3 September 2008
National Socialism is nothing but applied biology. – Rudolf Hess. Popular adage in the Third Reich.
The intellectual outlines of the eugenics Hitler adopted in 1924 were strictly America. He merely compounded all the virulence of long-established American race science with his fanatical anti-Jewish rage. Hitler’s extremist race science, which in many ways seemed like a logical extension of America’s own entrenched programs and advocacy, eventually helped shape the institutions and even the machinery of the Third Reich’s genocide. By the time Hitler’s concept of Aryan superiority emerged, his politics had completely fused into a biological and eugenic mindset.
War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race (2003) by Edwin Black. Pg. 270. ISBN# 1-56858-258-7
Old Navy Ads Imitate US Weekly
…the consequences of genetic advance are obscured by hype and conspiratorial clamors. Adding more fog, human genetics is now in many ways dominated by capital investment, and many revelations are subject to the eighteen-month initial secrecy of patent applications, the protracted strictures of Wall Street financing and the permanence of corporate nondisclosure agreements. Many areas of human science are now trade secrets. Twentieth-century corporate philanthropy has given way to twenty-first century corporate profits. Information is often controlled by public relations officers and patent attorneys. It takes a profoundly trained professional eye and a clear mind to separate fact from fantasy and blessings from menaces.
…humanity should also be wary of a world where people are once again defined and divided by their genetic identities. If this happens, science-based discrimination and the desire for a master race may resurrect. This time is would be different. In the twenty-first century it will not be race, religion or nationality, but economics that determines which among us will dominate and thrive. Globalization and market forces will replace racist ideology and group prejudice to fashion mankind’s coming genetic class destiny. If there is a new war against the weak it will not be about color, but about money. National emblems would bow to corporate logos.
Newgenics may rise like a phoenix from the ashes of eugenics and continue along the same route blazed in the last century. If it does, few will be able to clearly track the implications because the social and scientific revolutions will develop globally and corporately at the speed of a digital signal. The process will manifest as gradual genetic-based economic disenfranchisement. First, newgenics will create an uninsurable, unemployable and unfinanceable genetic underclass.
The process has already started.
Black. pp 428-429.
In the twenty-first century it will not be race, religion or nationality, but economics that determines which among us will dominate and thrive. Globalization and market forces will replace racist ideology and group prejudice to fashion mankind’s coming genetic class destiny. If there is a new war against the weak it will not be about color, but about money.
In disagreement with Black on this point. The Eugenic Bomb is a (silent) global Auschwitz. The goal of the Eugenic Bomb is to eradicate ethnicity (meaning non-White) and standardize the human ‘product.’ This process is therefore racist at its most core, microscopic level. The ‘generically attractive’ post-human at its most virulent is literal spam in humanoid form. The post-human DEVOID of SPIRIT – a soul-less automaton with an almost hardwired, machine-like consciousness.
Main Entry: vir·u·lent
Pronunciation: \ˈvir-ə-lənt, ˈvir-yə-\
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin virulentus, from virus poison
Date: 14th century
1 a: marked by a rapid, severe, and destructive course b: able to overcome bodily defensive mechanisms : markedly pathogenic 2: extremely poisonous or venomous3: full of malice : malignant 4: objectionably harsh or strong
— vir·u·lent·ly adverb
To paraphrase Huxley (1932): The Brave New World is inhabited by creatures of human shape but stunted humanity. They consume, fornicate, take ‘soma,’ (etc)…they do not read, write, think, love or govern themselves. Art and science, virtue and religion, family and friendship are all passe’. What matters most is bodily health and immediate gratification.
from Eugene Hacker:
Indeed, if the atomic bomb makes possible the idea of total species-wide extermination, then the genetic bomb would appear to follow upon that, but with more refinement: the extermination of genetically targeted populations within a given region. As Virilio notes, the genetic bomb is a more updated term for the population bomb, the demographic explosion that was seen to occur in the United States during the 1950’s. noted by Einstein and many sociologists of the postwar era. But Virilio discounts the population bomb thesis and suggests that, now, the genetic bomb is in the process of engineering new divisions within the species, a “super-humanity that has been ‘improved,’ a eugenic humanity, by virtue of decoding the genome.
How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Eugenic Bomb? (Part One) (The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture)
How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Eugenic Bomb? (Part Three) (The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture)
How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Eugenic Bomb? (Part Two) (The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture)
Aldous Huxley: The Ultimate Revolution (1962) (mp3 files)