Hacking DNA. No, really.

Last year a new genetic engineering technology called CRISPR - Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats - showed up on my radar at a local conference. Long story short, CRISPR is a highly precise technique for editing DNA in situ which follows from the discovery of short sequences of DNA which allow for precise location of individual genes. It's a fascinating technology; there are even tutorials (archived copy, just in case) online for developing your own guide RNA to implement CRISPR/Cas9. What you might not have known is that CRISPR/Cas9 is being actively studied as a theraputic technique in humans …

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HIV patient cured with stem cell transplant?

In the year 2007 an HIV-positive American citizen named Timothy Ray Brown, who resides in Berlin, Germany underwent a stem cell transplant after being diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of cancer called acude myeloid leukemia. AML is a sufficiently specific syndrome that there are a couple of good treatment protocols for it, among them a stem cell transplant to replace the malfunctioning cells in the patient's bone marrow which manufacture defective blood cells. Now, here's where it gets interesting: the donor of the stem cells had a very specific genetic mutation which results in cells of the individual's immune …

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Have insurance companies sunk to new lows?

As you may or may not be aware, insurance companies have some pretty manichean arbitrary criteria to decide whether or not a particular procedure, treatment, or medication are covered, or to what extent. To give you an idea of how they operate, I discovered the hard way a few months ago that my insurance company (no names or they'll probably turn around and drop Lyssa and I like a bad habit, knowing those fuckers) informed me that a particular treatment "should not" cost $190us, but "should," in fact, only cost $71us. They then informed me that they would pay only …

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