At the end of last year, Chinese geneticist He Jiankui shocked the world by announcing that he had successfully altered the genes of twin baby girls to prevent them from ever contracting HIV. The research community’s response was quick and harsh: he had flouted the ethical guidelines for manipulating the genomes of embryos, it said, and seemed unaware of the Pandora’s box he had pried open. While this one rogue scientist’s activities (if found to be true) have the potential to bruise public opinion of new, powerful medical technology, the promise of the technique, CRISPR-Cas 9 gene editing, is undeniable: the potential to block diseases with an underlying genetic basis before they begin, literally editing them out of the human genome for generations to come. The science and medical community will have a lot of talking to do in the coming years about how to manage this new technology and what impacts we can expect to see on human health.
And this isn’t the only health and medicine issue worth digging into. An unrelenting opioid crisis continues to sweep through the U.S., as do reemerging diseases and surprising epidemics. The medical community has rallied around new technologies—immune- based treatments for cancers, for example, and revolutionary genetic technology, such as CRISPR. Unanswered questions remain about the potential of medical marijuana, the relation between the gut and the brain, and the true scientific value of the latest wellness trends. And that’s just scratching the surface.
It seems prime time for Scientific American to contribute to the conversation in a more substantial way. Therefore, I am thrilled to introduce our newest subscription product: Scientific American Health&Medicine. This bimonthly publication will include articles from Scientific American and Nature and will explore the cutting-edge science of everything from human health and epidemiology to biotechnology and medicine. It’s just what the doctor ordered.
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