Better Living Through Crispr: Growing Human Organs in Pigs

Christie Hemm Klok Belmonte’s interest in the malleability of destiny was, on some level, personal. The child of poor, barely educated parents in rural southern Spain, he had been forced to drop out of school for a few years as a young boy to support his family with farmwork. Only as a teenager did he return to the classroom—at which point he promptly set off on a rapid trajectory from philosophy (Nietzsche and Schopenhauer were favorites) to pharmacology to genetics. By 2012, Belmonte was one of the world’s preeminent biologists, running his own lab at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, and another one in his native Spain. Like his colleagues all over the globe, he was pondering how …

The Gene Mutation That Could Cure HIV Has a Checkered Past

In the three and a half decades since HIV/AIDS was discovered, the deadly disease has killed 35 million people. While drugs now allow patients to live long lives with the virus, only one man, an American named Timothy Ray Brown, otherwise known as the “Berlin patient,” is believed to have been cured. Now, it appears he’s no longer alone. This week, a team of British scientists from the University of Cambridge claimed to have successfully treated an HIV-positive man from London with the same stem-cell technique that Brown’s doctors used a decade ago. It involved transplanting the patient with bone marrow from a donor who had a naturally occurring mutation in a gene called CCR5. HIV uses the CCR5 protein …