Weekly science reads: Macchiarini trial, somites, CRISPR babies

This has been one of those weeks where I spent some time thinking about taking risks in science. How much risk one should take?

Risks can come in many forms. It could be at the core level at the bench doing specific experiments and not others. There’s risk in clinical trials, and even in advocacy. Sometimes trying something new can pay off in a major way. Look at the discovery of a protocol for making organoids that grow fantastic somites in our first recommended reads item below.

organoids with somites, cool science
Fig. 1 Generation and characterization of human somitoids. “HCR images of day 6 somitoids. Asterisks indicate the stripes of TBX18 expression. N = 8 samples showed similar expression patterns.” Screenshot of part of Fig. 1g panel. Nat Comm. 2022, Sanaki-Matsumiya, et al.

The second item is the polar opposite. There a clinician-scientist took seriously harmed patients, some of whom died, with a bad clinical trial.

Before we jump into the recommended reads, check out our new video on The Niche Stem Cell Channel on YouTube (below). It’s focused on the idea of stem cell therapy for heart disease.

Recommended science reads

Periodic formation of epithelial somites from human pluripotent stem cells, Nat. Comm. This work from Miki Ebisuya’s lab on organoids sprouting those cool somites is amazing.

Check out the striking video below.

Sweden trial starts in stem-cell windpipe transplants case, ABC News. Will Paolo Macchiarini be held accountable here? He was previously sentenced to more than a year in prison in Italy. Remarkably, Macchiarini’s paper on the ill-fated “stem cell” tracheal transplants remains unretracted by The Lancet. Is that how science publishing is supposed to work?

Giving a stranger a new life: One student’s story about donating stem cells, NPR. What a great story and encouraging how brave the donor was.

Modelling ciliopathy phenotypes in human tissues derived from pluripotent stem cells with genetically ablated cilia, Nat BioMed Eng.

Generation of 3D retinal tissue from human pluripotent stem cells using a directed small molecule-based serum-free microwell platform, Sci. Reports.

Crispr Pioneer Expects to See Gene-Edited Babies Within 25 Years, Bloomberg. But Doudna is not advocating for making “CRISPR babies”. The science of gene-editing continues to move forward remarkably quickly but I don’t think the ethics and policy research, as well as the discussion, have kept pace.

Check out my book GMO Sapiens from 2015 on heritable CRISPR use in people for some things to think about and a reminder of where we were back then.

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