Can we eliminate diseases like Lyme and malaria by rewriting DNA? Specter walks us through a powerful new biological tool capable of altering the genetic destiny of a species.
How fast food is evolving to satiate the appetites of consumers searching for healthy options.
A closer look at what we still don’t know about gluten, and whether going “gluten-free” is a good idea.
The neuroscience of suppressing traumatic memories:
I had come to his house, in this sunny spot between Ben Gurion Airport and the Mediterranean coast, for an unlikely reason: not long ago, after decades of unwavering silence, Sigmund Schiller spoke about his Holocaust experience.
“People talk about ‘Sophie’s Choice’ as if it were a rare event,” he said. “It wasn’t. Everybody had to make Sophie’s choice—all of us. My mother left behind a four-year-old with the maid. You don’t think I was beaten and shot at? There are no violins in my story. It is the most common thing that happened.”
Nobody moved in the Schillers’ living room while the film continued. At times, Daniela hid her eyes with her hands, and so did her father. For the most part, they were immobile. On camera, she asked him if he had consciously suppressed this information.
“Yes,” he said. “You must suppress. Without suppression I wouldn’t live.”
Infection rates for Lyme disease are growing, and there’s still debate on how exactly to treat it:
“Nearly everything else about Lyme disease—the symptoms, the diagnosis, the prevalence, the behavior of the borrelia spirochete after it infects the body, and the correct approach to treatment—is contested bitterly and publicly. Even the definition of Lyme disease, and the terminology used to describe it, has fuelled years of acrimonious debate. The conventional medical assessment is straightforward: in most cases, the tick bite causes a skin rash, called erythema migrans, which is easily identified by its bull’s-eye. If left untreated, the bacteria can spread to muscles, joints, the heart, and even the brain. Public-health officials say that a few weeks of antibiotic treatment will almost always wipe out the infection, and that relapses are rare. In this view, put forth in guidelines issued by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Lyme is normally easy to treat and easy to cure.”
Meet the researchers who are developing new methods for countering global warming using geoengineering. Some solutions come with great risks:
“While such tactics could clearly fail, perhaps the greater concern is what might happen if they succeeded in ways nobody had envisioned. Injecting sulfur dioxide, or particles that perform a similar function, would rapidly lower the temperature of the earth, at relatively little expense—most estimates put the cost at less than ten billion dollars a year. But it would do nothing to halt ocean acidification, which threatens to destroy coral reefs and wipe out an enormous number of aquatic species. The risks of reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches the atmosphere on that scale would be as obvious—and immediate—as the benefits. If such a program were suddenly to fall apart, the earth would be subjected to extremely rapid warming, with nothing to stop it. And while such an effort would cool the globe, it might do so in ways that disrupt the behavior of the Asian and African monsoons, which provide the water that billions of people need to drink and to grow their food.”
Prasad said nothing more about the medical needs of his patients. “It’s a nice lab,” Mannan said when we left. “Beautiful, actually. But if the doctors used it properly that would interfere with their private practice.” I asked what he meant. “It is simple,” he said. “If patients are treated at the hospital, they won’t need to pay for anything else.”