Lila Shapiro
Lila Shapiro is the 2013 and 2014 recipient of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association's Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBT Journalist of the Year. She previously worked at Talking Points Memo, editing TPMCafe. She lives in New York City.

Follow her on Twitter @lilapearl.

Entries by Lila Shapiro

La science pourrait ressusciter des mammouths d'ici sept ans

(0) Comments | Posted January 28, 2016 | 11:00 AM

GÉNÉTIQUE - De toutes les possibilités offertes par la nouvelle méthode controversée de réécriture de l’ADN, CRISPR-Cas9, les plus fascinantes sont peut-être les tentatives de faire renaître des animaux disparus. Parmi les espèces candidates à la dé-extinction, comme l’ont baptisé les Anglo-Saxons, citons par exemple le pigeon voyageur...

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La résurrection des mammouths se fera peut-être plus rapidement que vous ne le pensez

(2) Comments | Posted December 27, 2015 | 11:43 AM

De toutes les possibilités offertes par CRISPR-Cas9, une nouvelle méthode controversée de réécriture de l’ADN, les plus fascinantes sont peut-être les tentatives de faire renaître des animaux disparus. Parmi les espèces candidates à la dé-extinction, comme l’ont baptisé les Anglo-Saxons, citons par exemple le pigeon voyageur (dont le dernier est...

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Como a controversa manipulação genética pode levar à cura de doenças

(0) Comments | Posted December 24, 2015 | 4:59 PM

Graças a uma nova e controversa tecnologia chamada CRISPR, cientistas começam a avançar no entendimento e potencialmente na cura de algumas das doenças mais intratáveis do mundo.

Anemia de célula falciforme, HIV, esquizofrenia e autismo – os alvos são essencialmente todos os tipos de doença que envolvem DNA ruim.

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We May Resurrect The Mammoth Sooner Than You Think

(2) Comments | Posted December 17, 2015 | 1:58 PM

Of all the varied and incredible possibilities presented by the controversial new gene-editing technique known as CRISPR-Cas9, perhaps the most intriguing are efforts to bring animals back from extinction. Candidates for de-extinction, as the process is known, include species like the passenger pigeon (the last one died in...

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The One Question This Brilliant Physicist Wants People To Stop Asking Her

(0) Comments | Posted December 14, 2015 | 1:42 PM

Lisa Randall, the Harvard physicist and best-selling author of Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, a fascinating look at the role that the former may have played in wiping out the latter, is a woman of many impressive distinctions.


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유전공학 혁명에 대한 공포는 과장된 것이다

(0) Comments | Posted December 12, 2015 | 12:03 PM

genetic engineering

전세계 과학자 수백 명이 워싱턴 D.C.에 모여 유전 혁명에 박차를 가한 신기술에 대한 3일 간의 회담을 가졌다.

크리스퍼(CRISPR-Cas9)라는 유전자 편집 기술로 인해, 인간을 포함한 동식물의 유전자를 쉽고 빠르게 바꾸고 지우거나 교체하는 것이 가능해졌다. 우리의 삶을 바꿀 수 있는 크리스퍼의 힘은 어마어마할 것으로 추정된다....

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Autism? Trauma? There's A Virus For That.

(0) Comments | Posted December 11, 2015 | 9:35 AM

More than 3.5 million Americans today live with autism, a condition without a cure. But that's not to say that children with autism don’t take medication. According to a survey by the National Institute of Mental Health, more than half of children with autism ages 6 to 17...

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The Genetic Revolution Could Curb World Hunger And Pesticide Use

(4) Comments | Posted December 8, 2015 | 2:46 PM

The genetic revolution is coming to your dinner plate.

Over the past year or so, researchers around the world have begun using a new gene-editing technique that has the potential to help stop world hunger, end the use of pesticides and improve...

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Diving Into The Ethics Of The Technology Behind Designer Babies

(0) Comments | Posted December 3, 2015 | 1:36 PM

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World tells the story of a government that manipulates people’s genes to deepen the divides between social classes, creating a race of superhumans and a race of slaves. Today, a revolutionary technology called CRISPR-Cas9 has some scientists worrying that Huxley’s bleak vision isn’t so...

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Cogumelos mágicos? Nem tanto. Mas a ciência diz que eles têm o poder de fazer chover

(0) Comments | Posted December 2, 2015 | 5:10 PM

Um cogumelo típico projeta dezenas de milhares de esporos na atmosfera a cada segundo, e até uma década atrás ninguém sabia como.

Nos anos 1990 o professor de botânica Nicholas Money, da Universidade de Miami, decidiu estudar “um dos maiores mistérios sem solução da biologia fúngica”, identificado um século antes...

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This Scientist Says Your Fears About The Coming Genetic Engineering Revolution Are Overblown

(0) Comments | Posted December 1, 2015 | 2:32 PM

This week, hundreds of scientists from around the world are descending on Washington D.C. for a three-day summit on a new technique that has spurred a major genetic revolution.

Thanks to a gene-editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9, it is now not only possible, but easy, cheap...

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How Controversial Gene Editing Could Lead To Groundbreaking Cures

(0) Comments | Posted November 25, 2015 | 12:22 PM

Thanks to the controversial new technology known as CRISPR, scientists are beginning to make headway in understanding and potentially curing some of the world's most intractable diseases.

Sickle-cell anemia, HIV, schizophrenia and autism -- essentially, anything involving bad DNA is now fair game. The latest example, from...

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This Technology Can Fight Cancer And Create Adorable Mini Pigs. So Why Are Scientists So Worried?

(3) Comments | Posted November 20, 2015 | 8:38 AM

As any number of magazine articles and news stories from recent months have noted, we are in the midst of a major genetic revolution. Thanks to a gene-editing technique called Crispr-Cas9, it is now not only possible, but easy, cheap and fast, to change, delete or replace genes in any plant or animal, including people.

Scientists around the world have already used Crispr on a wide range of projects, from developing a kind of wheat that is invulnerable to mildew to stopping cancer cells from multiplying. This week, Scientific American shone a spotlight on China’s “bold push” into the world of genetically customized animals -- and the mounting ethical quandaries that follow.

Using Crispr, scientists in China have created beagles with double the amount of muscle mass -- the world’s first gene-edited dogs -- as well as a new kind of goat, with bigger muscles and longer hair, among other Crispr-altered mammals. The work seems likely to rapidly expand. Minhua Hu, a geneticist at the Guangzhou General Pharmaceutical Research Institute and one of the beagle researchers, told Scientific American that genetically modifying animals is a priority area for the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Another geneticist noted that the Chinese government has allocated “a lot of financial support” for such efforts.

Humans have manipulated the genetic makeup of plants and animals for thousands of years. The beagle is already a product of human genetic manipulation. So are golden retrievers, cats, cows, the salad that you ate for lunch, and every other domesticated animal and plant. But Crispr is far more precise and efficient than any previous technique. As Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University School of Medicine, put it, “We used to have a butter knife, now we’ve got a scalpel.”

The ease and precision of Crispr is partly what fuels the ethical questions that accompany the technology. “Now it’s something that someone with a BS and a couple thousand dollars’ worth of equipment can do. What was impractical is now almost everyday. That’s a big deal,” Hank Greely, a bioethicist at Stanford University, told Wired.

Unlike earlier attempts at gene therapy, changes made with Crispr trickle down to future generations, potentially altering an entire species’ fate. This can have a cascading effect. For example, some researchers are trying to develop a mosquito that is both resistant to malaria and produces fewer eggs, a change that could cause the insects to become extinct. But if there are no more mosquitoes, what will happen to the bats that feed on them?

When Caplan first read a paper on Crispr two years ago, he was blown away by the possibilities. “As soon as I finished reading it, I thought, ‘Holy crap we’re going to have full employment for bioethicists.’”

Of the many ethical questions raised by the technology, one in particular stands out: When will we start using Crispr to make better babies?

China has made headlines in this arena as well. Last April, a group at Sun Yat-sen University published a paper announcing that they had used Crispr to edit human embryos to delete a gene linked to a blood disorder. The embryos were obtained from a fertility clinic, and couldn’t be carried to term. The experiment did not succeed, and, in part, showed how far away we are from using Crispr to create a so-called designer baby.

But Caplan predicts that once the science is firmly established, it will happen. “Everyone’s out talking about fixing diseases or making lab animals to fix diseases, but if you look at how interested people are in getting their kid into the right nursery school so they can get them into Harvard Business School -- they’re going to be interested in how they can engineer their kid to be more successful,” he said. “Not next year, but boy that’s going to come quickly.”

Tailor-made pets will come first. Although China’s Crispr work on mammals has so far had mostly practical aims -- for example, boosting goatherd incomes by increasing how much meat and wool each animal produces -- one Chinese institute is planning to sell gene-edited tiny pigs as pets.

More examples are likely to follow, both in China and around the world. Want a unicorn? How about a chicken that is “de-evolved” to look more like a dinosaur? Scientists say it could happen. It’s easy to envision the dystopian possibilities. What’s to stop someone from creating the world’s most dangerous attack dog?

“I’m going to say, nothing,” Caplan said. As Caplan outlined in a paper recently, published in Embo Reports, there are almost no regulations of any kind in place to shape the way that scientists use Crispr on animals.

Next month, however, that could begin to change. On Dec. 1, the National Academy of Sciences will host a three-day international conference to discuss the scientific, ethical and political issues raised by human gene-editing with Crispr. And on Dec. 7 and 8, the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research will host a conference on the ethics raised by using Crispr on animals. (Caplan is leading sessions on ethical and regulatory issues at the conference.)

But Caplan isn’t betting that the international community will regulate the industry anytime soon. “It’ll take some disaster to do it,” he said. “Otherwise the tendency is to say ‘Oh well, we’ll see where it goes.’”

Lila Shapiro covers the science fiction of science, the imaginative ways scientists are trying to solve the world’s hardest problems. Tips? Email 

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Space Lawyers Are A Thing, And We Talked To One About The Future Of Cosmic Mining

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2015 | 10:10 AM

Humanity is now one step closer to the kind of disastrous extraterrestrial mining operation depicted by James Cameron in Avatar. Incidentally, Cameron is one of the Americans who stands to benefit by a new bill that sailed through Congress this week.

The U.S....

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Esse minúsculo país pode virar o jogo na luta para salvar os oceanos

(0) Comments | Posted November 13, 2015 | 5:25 PM

O minúsculo arquipélago de Palau, no Pacífico Ocidental, há muito tempo é um dos líderes em conservação oceânica.

Na última década, o país criou o primeiro santuário de tubarões do mundo, aprovou algumas das leis mais rigorosas proibindo arrastões em águas profundas e desenvolveu uma estrutura de conservação que...

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The Quest To Design A Healthier Tomato

(0) Comments | Posted November 4, 2015 | 12:33 PM

Last week, researchers in the United Kingdom announced that they’d developed a genetically modified tomato with the potential to help protect consumers from cancer. The tomato, described in a new paper published in Nature -- and not yet available to the public -- is...

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Mushrooms May Really Be Magic After All

(0) Comments | Posted November 2, 2015 | 3:05 PM

A typical mushroom shoots tens of thousands of spores into the atmosphere every second, and until a decade ago nobody knew how.

In the 1990s, Miami University botany professor Nicholas Money decided to look into "one of the great unsolved mysteries in fungal biology," identified...

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The Author Who Thinks 'South Park' Can Help Save Science

(1) Comments | Posted October 28, 2015 | 4:19 PM

My brother’s brief tenure as a math doctoral student at the University of Chicago ended shortly after he attended a gathering where one of his colleagues bragged that he had never read a novel. To my brother’s dismay, everyone else in the room nodded in agreement and approval....

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This Game Can Make People Less Prejudiced. Here's How.

(0) Comments | Posted October 27, 2015 | 12:57 PM

Can you name a female physicist?

It turns out just trying to do so may make you less likely to believe women aren’t good at science or math.

OK, it’s a little more complicated than that. But new research this week suggests that...

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Scientist Featured On 'Humans Of New York' Can Put Your Immune System Into A Mouse's Body

(0) Comments | Posted October 26, 2015 | 9:24 AM

Humans of New York, the popular blog that uses images of New Yorkers to create a photographic census of the city, featured a scientist last week who caught our eye: She can put your entire immune system into the body of a mouse!

As she put it to Humans...

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