For a species whose numbers show no signs of collapsing, humans have a shockingly high mutation rate. Each of us is born with about 70 new genetic errors that our parents did not have. That's much more than a slime mold, say, or a bacterium. Mutations are likely to decrease an organism's fitness, and an avalanche like this every generation could be deadly to our species. The fact that we haven't gone extinct suggests that over the long term, we have some way of taking out our genetic garbage.
The marijuana analytics company Steep Hill doesn't smell dank, or skunky, or "loud"--unless you happen to arrive when a client is dropping off a sample. Inside, a half-dozen young scientists work in a glass-walled lab to the sounds of whirring ventilation and soft jazz. The effect is one of professionalism and scientific objectivity. Still, this place is all about weed. And Reggie Gaudino, Steep Hill's burly and dreadlocked 53-year-old vice president of scientific operations, does look the part. Steep Hill is headquartered in famously 420-friendly Berkeley, California, after all. "I've been smoking since I was 13 years old," he says, looking down over a railing at the lab.
A leading geneticist has said that scientists should draw up a clear set of dos and don'ts for those who want to perform human gene editing. "What we need is a detailed protocol of how you would go about this," says Robin Lovell-Badge of the Francis Crick Institute in London, who thinks some could benefit from genome editing if it was done right. "We think this is the best way forward." To continue reading this premium article, subscribe for unlimited access. Existing subscribers, please log in with your email address to link your account access.
If you've been following genetics news in the past few weeks, you've probably seen the headlines: "Woolly mammoth will be back from extinction within two years, say Harvard scientists"! "Woolly mammoth on verge of resurrection, scientists reveal"! Is the de-extinction hype real? A group of scientists led by renowned geneticist George Church is, indeed, working on creating a mammoth of sorts. And it's going to be really expensive.