Brits allow three genetic parents

After spending several years interviewing scientists and holding public forums to debate ethics and air concerns, the U.K.’s lower house of Parliament this week voted to allow babies to be born with three genetic parents.

While some call it a perversion, the procedure has nothing at all to do with kinky sex. Rather, it’s a highly advanced single-cell micro-surgery, replete with cutting-edge lasers and imaging software and, yes, even a joystick, whereby a small number of skilled geneticists is able to remove the nucleus of a donor woman’s egg (the part that plays host to some 25,000 genes) from its surrounding cytoplasm (in which reside 37 genes) and insert the intended mother’s nucleus in its place…

The purpose of the procedure, also called mitochondrial gene replacement therapy, is not to tweak the physical characteristics or personality traits of a child – those reside in the nucleus, which still belongs wholly to the intended mother. Rather, it is to swap out that mother’s faulty mitochondrial DNA – those pesky 37 genes that power every cell in our bodies save red blood cells – with a healthy donor’s.

Because when mitochondrial DNA fail to provide energy to our cells, dozens and possibly hundreds of diseases can result, causing a wide range of problems that include extreme fatigue, dementia, stunted growth, deafness, blindness, multi-organ failure, and even death…

This kind of genetic mixing crosses the so-called germ line – the series of cells through which genes pass down through future generations – which is outlawed in dozens of countries, including the UK, hence the need for Parliament to make an exception. And while it’s not yet illegal in the US, the FDA has hesitated for several years to approve the first clinical trials here. “Maybe the FDA will wait for the results if they don’t want to conduct clinical trials here,” Mitalipov said.

That sounds about right for the United States. I’ve lived through a lifetime of governments whose only concept of adventure involves military hardware and killing furriners. Add into the equation Congress which has become fearful unto death of the religious right – and you know in advance what chance enabling legislation might have.

Shades of the American Family Whatever! The United States began a backwards trudge to the 19th Century when Ronald Reagan removed solar panels from the roof of the White House. The few years of progress we found during a fraction of Obama’s first term will probably be revoked if both conservative and nutball Republicans acquire the White House in addition to Congress. Should more than 35% of eligible voters crawl out from wherever they hide – and Hillary is elected along with a supportive Congress – we might get another year or two of change before political cowardice resumes its traditional place in a collapsing imperial nation.

We’ll continue our journey on the way to becoming 1950 England.

Marvels of the Universe

A site worth visiting week after week.

And if you need to back up and peruse a wider view of the comparative unimportance of our species – and the truly irrational crappola of True Believers – play and rewind this voyage through our nearest neighbor, Andromeda. Reflect upon this view of a less-than significant morsel less important than a mustard seed lost on the beach in Coney Island.

But – we think we’re important.

Bullet-proof fashion store opens in Eindhoven

A company selling “fashionable” bullet-proof clothing has opened its first store in the Netherlands.

Residents of Eindhoven can now stock up on the classic bullet-proof vest, but also suits, leather jackets and even ties, the Omroep Brabant website reports. The shop sells a Colombian brand of armoured clothing that is designed to look just like normal outfits, with vests thin enough to wear underneath a T-shirt. The clothes are mainly aimed at people who might feel at risk in their jobs, such as jewellers and staff at petrol stations, says company spokesman Staas de Wijs. They’re not meant to appeal to criminals, he adds.

The group that owns the shop, Panamera, says there’s been an increased interest in the products since the Paris terror attacks in January. “After Paris, 150 more people have already asked for information,” CEO Yavuz Yilmaz tells the Eindhovens Dagblad website. He won’t give away anything specific about who’s buying the items, but says the past weeks have seen “a lot of enquiries from Belgium and France as a result of current developments”. Anyone interested in making their wardrobe bullet-proof might need to save up, however. According to Omroep Brabant, the cheapest item costs 2,400 euros (= $2,700).

Eeoough! That can do as much damage as a small-calibre bullet. At least to your wallet.