Author Archive for Pharmboy

Opening Pandora’s Box: Gene editing and its consequences

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Opening Pandora's Box: Gene editing and its consequences

File 20181205 186052 vff76v.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Bacteriophage viruses infecting bacterial cells , Bacterial viruses. from www.shutterstock.com

Courtesy of John Bergeron, McGill University

Today, the scientific community is aghast at the prospect of gene editing to create “designer” humans. Gene editing may be of greater consequence than climate change, or even the consequences of unleashing the energy of the atom.

CRISPR is an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. This is the immune system that bacteria developed to protect themselves from infections by bacteriophages — the most abundant life form on the planet.

Smaller than any known life form

Bacteriophages were discovered in Paris by Felix d’Hérelle at the Pasteur Institute in 1917. He was studying a subset of patients spontaneously recovering from dysentery. D’Hérelle proposed that an antimicrobe smaller than any known life form had killed the bacteria in infected patients. He demonstrated conclusively the existence of this new life form, and named them bacteriophages: viruses that attack bacteria.

The bacteriophage has been studied intensely: its beauty was revealed with the electron microscope and its genome was the first life form sequenced.

Responding to a bacteriophage attack

In 2007, Rodolphe Barrangou and Philippe Horvath of the food production company Danisco collaborated with Sylvain Moineau of Laval University to solve a long-standing problem in yogurt production. They asked: Why were bacteria that were essential for the production of yogurt and cheese susceptible to bacteriophage attack, and how could this be prevented?

Barrangou, Horvath and Moineau made the astonishing discovery that bacteria actually had an immune system.

CRISPR: Acquired Bacterial Immune Systems.

After an initial bacteriophage attack, a small number of surviving bacteria would recognize the DNA of the newly attacking bacteriophages. The surviving bacteria would then mount an immune response leading to the death of the bacteriophages. The bacteria that survived a phage attack would embed a fragment of bacteriophage DNA within their bacterial genome to serve as a “memory” of the…
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China’s win-at-all-costs approach suggests it will follow its own dangerous path in biomedicine

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China's win-at-all-costs approach suggests it will follow its own dangerous path in biomedicine

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Megacity Shenzhen, as seen from Hong Kong, is a center for Chinese finance and tech. AP Photo/Kin Cheung

Courtesy of Hallam Stevens, Nanyang Technological University

The world was shocked by Chinese scientist He Jiankui’s recent claim that he’d brought to term twin babies whose genes – inheritable by their own potential descendants – he had modified as embryos. The genetic edit, He said, was meant to make the girls resistant to HIV infection.

Scientists within China and across the world responded to the announcement with a mixture of incredulity and alarm.

But as a historian of biology who has closely followed biomedicine in China over the past few years, I was less surprised by these developments. Set within the context of China’s approach to biomedical ethics and its rampant global ambitions, He’s actions fit into a wider pattern of dangerous excess.

He Jiankui’s announcement included plenty of careful image cultivation. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Since He did not publish any of his results in scientific journals there’s no way of knowing yet whether his claims are true, false or exaggerated in some way. But what seems the most surprising outside of China is that He believed – gambled, perhaps – that his announcement would be met with congratulations and acclaim. Didn’t he know that he’d be condemned? Why take such a risk?

Different history frames what’s acceptable

China’s relationship to biomedical ethics is very different from that of the West.

In the West, after-the-fact condemnation of Nazi medical experiments, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and other patient abuses led to the rise of Institutional Review Boards that carefully regulate medical experimentation on humans. China has its own history of dubious medical research, including by Japanese scientists during World War II, but it didn’t result in the development of similar kinds of home-grown bioethics institutions.…
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Those designer babies everyone is freaking out about – it’s not likely to happen

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Those designer babies everyone is freaking out about – it's not likely to happen

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Babies to order. Andrew crotty/Shutterstock.com

Courtesy A Cecile JW Janssens, Emory University

When Adam Nash was still an embryo, living in a dish in the lab, scientists tested his DNA to make sure it was free of Fanconi anemia, the rare inherited blood disease from which his sister Molly suffered. They also checked his DNA for a marker that would reveal whether he shared the same tissue type. Molly needed a donor match for stem cell therapy, and her parents were determined to find one. Adam was conceived so the stem cells in his umbilical cord could be the lifesaving treatment for his sister.

Adam Nash is considered to be the first designer baby, born in 2000 using in vitro fertilizaton with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, a technique used to choose desired characteristics. The media covered the story with empathy for the parents’ motives but not without reminding the reader that “eye color, athletic ability, beauty, intelligence, height, stopping a propensity towards obesity, guaranteeing freedom from certain mental and physical illnesses, all of these could in the future be available to parents deciding to have a designer baby.

The designer babies have thus been called the “future-we-should-not-want” for each new reproductive technology or intervention. But the babies never came and are nowhere close. I am not surprised.

I study the prediction of complex diseases and human traits that result from interactions between multiple genes and lifestyle factors. This research shows that geneticists cannot read the genetic code and know who will be above average in intelligence and athleticism. Such traits and diseases that result from multiple genes and lifestyle factors cannot be predicted using just DNA, and cannot be designed. Not now. And very unlikely ever.

Designer babies are next

The inevitable rise of designer babies was proclaimed in 1978 after the birth of Louise Brown, the first IVF baby, as the next step toward “a brave world where parents can select their child’s gender and traits.” The…
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World’s first gene-edited babies? Premature, dangerous and irresponsible

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World's first gene-edited babies? Premature, dangerous and irresponsible

File 20181126 140519 1oixr4d.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Vchal/Shutterstock

By Joyce Harper, UCL

A scientist in China claims to have produced the world’s first genome-edited babies by altering their DNA to increase their resistance to HIV. Aside from the lack of verifiable evidence for this non peer-reviewed claim, this research is premature, dangerous and irresponsible.

He Jiankui from the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen (which has reportedly since suspended him) said he edited the DNA of seven embryos being used for fertility treatment, so far resulting in the birth of one set of twin girls. He says he used the tool known as CRISPR to delete the embryos’ CCR5 gene (C-C motif chemokine receptor 5), mutations in which are linked to resistance to HIV infection.

If true, this is a significant advance in genetic science, but there are some very serious problems with this news. First, the research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal so we cannot be sure of the exact details of what has been done. Instead, the scientist made the claims to the Associated Press news organisation, and the journalists involved haven’t been able to independently verify them. The parents of the allegedly gene-edited babies declined to be interviewed or identified.

Second, we know there can be significant problems with using existing gene-editing technology on human embryos. The main two issues are mosaicism, where the edited DNA does not appear in every cell of the embryo, and off-target effects, where other parts of the genome may also have been edited with unknown consequences.

Before genome editing becomes a clinical treatment, it is essential that scientists resolve both of these issues and eliminate other potential adverse effects on the embryo. We need comprehensive studies to show that genome editing is not going to cause harm to the future people it helps create. Any children born as a result of genome editing will also need long-term follow up. It would be vital to see the preliminary work that he has done to confirm that his technique…
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Gene-editing technique CRISPR identifies dangerous breast cancer mutations

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Gene-editing technique CRISPR identifies dangerous breast cancer mutations

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Breast cancer type 1 (BRCA1) is a human tumor suppressor gene, found in all humans. Its protein, also called by the synonym BRCA1, is responsible for repairing DNA. ibreakstock/Shutterstock.com

By Jay Shendure, University of Washington; Greg Findlay, University of Washington, and Lea Starita, University of Washington

More than 1 million women have had genetic testing of BRCA1 and BRCA2, genes in which mutations can dramatically increase the risk for early onset breast and ovarian cancer. But for many women the test results have been ambiguous. That’s because it’s not clear where certain genetic variations are harmless or cause cancer.

BRCA1 was amongst the first cancer predisposition genes discovered, and it has been studied for over 20 years. The gene produces a protein that repairs DNA damage, which might otherwise lead to the formation of tumors. Since its discovery, researchers and clinicians have identified many genetic variations in BRCA1, but for most of these, we are unable to tell whether they impair function of the gene – raising the risk of cancer – or whether they are perfectly harmless.

Our research team works in the emerging field of genomic medicine, which uses an individual’s genetic information to prescribe care. We recognized that such “variants of uncertain significance” limited the utility of genetic testing and the prospects for genomic medicine. We know that problem is likely to get worse, as the number of uncertain variants in BRCA1 and other “medically actionable” genes is expected to grow exponentially as genetic testing is expanded to entire populations.

In a study, we set out to apply CRISPR genome editing to solve the challenge posed by these variants of uncertain significance. CRISPR has tremendous potential because the technology allows researchers like us to tinker with human genes. CRISPR allows us to make very specific changes, “edits” to our DNA – thus the phrase, “genome editing.”

Although there are many studies that are attempting to use CRISPR to treat disease, it can also be used to introduce specific mutations into human cells that grow in a dish,…
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Cracking the sugar code: Why the ‘glycome’ is the next big thing in health and medicine

 

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Cracking the sugar code: Why the 'glycome' is the next big thing in health and medicine

File 20180724 194149 1a8cg12.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

By molekuul_be/shutterstock.com

Courtesy of Emanual Maverakis, University of California, Davis; Carlito Lebrilla, University of California, Davis, and Jenny Wang, Yeshiva University

When you think of sugar, you probably think of the sweet, white, crystalline table sugar that you use to make cookies or sweeten your coffee. But did you know that within our body, simple sugar molecules can be connected together to create powerful structures that have recently been found to be linked to health problems, including cancer, aging and autoimmune diseases.

These long sugar chains that cover each of our cells are called glycans, and according to the National Academy of Sciences, creating a map of their location and structure will usher us into a new era of modern medicine. This is because the human glycome – the entire collection of sugars within our body – houses yet-to-be-discovered glycans with the potential to aid physicians in diagnosing and treating their patients.

Thanks to the worldwide attention garnered by the 2003 completion of the Human Genome Project, most people have heard about DNA, genomics and even proteomics – the study of proteins. But the study of glycans, also known as glycomics, is about 20 years behind that of other fields. One reason for this lag is that scientists have not developed the tools to rapidly identify glycan structures and their attachment sites on people’s cells. The “sugar coat” has been somewhat of a mystery.

Until now, that is.

While most laboratories focus on cellular or molecular research, our lab is dedicated to developing technology to rapidly characterize glycan structures and their attachment sites. Our ultimate goal is to catalog the hundreds of thousands of sugars and their locations on various cell types, and then to use this information to tailor medical therapies to each individual.

Why do we care about glycans?

In the future, it is likely that analysis of an individual’s glycans will be used to predict our…
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Diabetes: new test could detect the disease much earlier

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Diabetes: new test could detect the disease much earlier

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Egoreichenkov Evgenii/Shutterstock.com

Courtesy of Samuel Virtue, University of Cambridge

The glucose tolerance test is the standard method for detecting diabetes. But our new study suggests that a different test can identify the disease earlier than the glucose tolerance test.

Diabetes kills 3.4m people worldwide each year, and this figure is expected to continue rising. It kills people by causing secondary diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. And the longer diabetes remains untreated, the greater the risk of developing these diseases, so early detection is vital.

Diabetes is detected when the body can no longer regulate its own blood sugar levels. Blood sugar is controlled by insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. This hormone lowers blood glucose by making the body’s cells take it up, where it is stored or used for energy.

VectorMine/Shutterstock.com

There are two major forms of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease where the body destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 2 is a progressive disease where the body first becomes resistant to insulin. Initially, the body makes more insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check, but the pancreas then wears out and blood glucose levels become dangerously high.

Fat as the new marker

In type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells become resistant to the effects of insulin before diabetes develops. This made us wonder whether we could detect earlier stages of the disease, when the body is insulin resistant but before the pancreas has worn out and blood glucose levels have increased. We focused on investigating how the body becomes unresponsive to insulin. And to do so, we considered fat, not glucose.

Obesity is now established as the leading cause of type 2 diabetes. One of the main ways that obesity is thought to cause diabetes is by the body fat (adipose tissue) not working properly.…
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Approval of first ‘RNA interference’ drug – why the excitement?

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Approval of first ‘RNA interference’ drug – why the excitement?

File 20180816 2924 zgcmzj.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Single strands of ribonucleic acid (RNA) are now being used to treat disease. By nobeastsofierce / shutterstock.com

Courtesy of Thomas Schmittgen, University of Florida

Small interfering RNA sounds like something from a science fiction novel rather than a revolutionary type of medicine. But this odd-sounding new drug offers a novel strategy for treating disease by targeting the root cause rather than just the symptoms. This is an exciting approach because it enhances the effectiveness of the treatment and reduces side effects.

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the very first therapeutic small interfering RNA (siRNA), Onpattro (patisiran), to treat nerve damage caused by a rare disease called hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis (hATTR). Hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis affects about 50,000 people worldwide. The major cause is the buildup of a protein called amyloid in the peripheral nerves, heart and other organs. Small interfering RNA was first described in 1998 and its discoverers were awarded the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine in 2006. Twenty years later the discovery has been translated into a new form of medicine.

Proteins make up the largest structural and functional portion of our cells and tissues. The instructions to make a particular protein is encoded in our DNA. In order for the protein to be made, DNA must first be transcribed into an intermediate molecule called messenger RNA, which is then translated into a protein. Simply put, DNA makes RNA makes protein.

DNA encodes the instructions to make proteins. Inside the cell DNA is converted into RNA, which is then translated into a protein. By Fancy Tapis / shutterstock.com

A disease such as hATTR is caused by excessive amyloid protein. One solution to overcoming these defects is to limit the protein from being made in the first place.

That’s where siRNA comes in.

The beauty of RNA drugs like Onpattro lies in its specificity. Onpattro is a small stretch of RNA that “interferes” with its…
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Nanomedicine could revolutionise the way we treat TB. Here’s how

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Nanomedicine could revolutionise the way we treat TB. Here's how

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Nanomedicine could scupper the need for TB patients to take multiple daily tablets with toxic side effects. Daniel Irungu/EPA

Courtesy of Sarah D'Souza, University of the Western Cape and Admire Dube, University of the Western Cape

Tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest infectious disease. Worldwide, there are still about 10.4 million cases of TB and 1.7 million deaths every year.

One of the reasons it’s been hard to bring the disease under control is that the drugs used to treat it require a gruelling regimen and can be toxic. This means people very often don’t finish the course.

TB treatment lasts for six months and uses a combination of four antimicrobial drugs taken in large, daily amounts. The reason for the large daily dose is that these drugs are poorly absorbed; even when a drug gets to the infected site, only a portion of it will enter the affected tissue and fight the bacteria. They are also quickly eliminated from sites of infection by metabolic body functions.

These medicines also exhibit considerable toxicity such as liver damage, painful tingling in the hands and feet as well as joint pain. That’s because they don’t just target the infected areas of the body.

In some instances, the medicines are only available as injectables into the muscle, which is a painful procedure – and require daily clinic or prolonged hospital stays.

All of this leads to poor adherence to treatment among TB patients – and, ultimately, contributes to the generation and transmission of drug resistant TB strains. These are even harder to treat, with treatment lasting up to two years.

But there may be hope for TB treatment, in the form of nanomedicine. Tests are already being done on animals. And we are just two of many researchers from around the globe doing research at the nexus of nanomedicine and TB at the University of the Western Cape.

How nanomedicine works

Nanomedicine is the use of…
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Here’s what we know about CRISPR safety – and reports of ‘genome vandalism’

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Here's what we know about CRISPR safety – and reports of 'genome vandalism'

File 20180727 106505 1s3j5di.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

A standee of the movie ‘Rampage’ at a theater in Bangkok, Thailand. Scientists in the film used CRISPR to create a monster. By Sarunyu L/shutterstock.com

Courtesy of Jianhua Luo, University of Pittsburgh

A movie just recently released called “Rampage” features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson using a genetic engineering technology called CRISPR, to transform a gorilla, among other animals, into a flying dragon-monster with gigantic teeth. Though this is science fiction, not to mention impossible, the movie captures the imagination of the public and their recent interest and fascination with CRISPR.

CRISPR, which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, was originally part of bacterial defense system that evolved to destroy foreign DNA that entered a bacterium. But this system was also capable of editing DNA – and now geneticists have honed the technology to alter the DNA sequences that we specify. This has generated enormous excitement and great expectations about the possibility of using CRISPR to alter genetic sequences to improve our health, to treat diseases, improve the quality and quantity of our food supplies, and tackle environmental pollution.

But a few recent scientific papers suggest that CRISPR is not without its problems. The research reveals that CRISPR can damage DNA that is far from the target DNA we are trying to correct. As a cancer biologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, I use CRISPR in my lab to study human cancers and develop ways to kill cancer cells. Although the new finding appears significant, I don’t think that these revelations rule out using the technology in a clinical setting, but rather, they suggest we take additional cautionary measures as we implement these strategies.

Treating human diseases

CRISPR/Cas9 is being used to edit DNA in plants, animals, and in humans. But new studies are casting doubts about whether the technology is safe to use for human therapies. By TotallyMJ/shutterstock.com

Using genome editing…
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Phil's Favorites

Transparency and privacy: Empowering people through blockchain

 

Transparency and privacy: Empowering people through blockchain

Blockchain technologies can empower people by allowing them more control over their user data. Shutterstock

Courtesy of Ajay Kumar Shrestha, University of Saskatchewan

Blockchain has already proven its huge influence on the financial world with its first application in the form of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It might not be long before its impact is felt everywhere.

Blockchain is a secure chain of digital records that exist on multiple computers simultaneously so no record can be erased or falsified. The...



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Digital Currencies

Transparency and privacy: Empowering people through blockchain

 

Transparency and privacy: Empowering people through blockchain

Blockchain technologies can empower people by allowing them more control over their user data. Shutterstock

Courtesy of Ajay Kumar Shrestha, University of Saskatchewan

Blockchain has already proven its huge influence on the financial world with its first application in the form of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It might not be long before its impact is felt everywhere.

Blockchain is a secure chain of digital records that exist on multiple computers simultaneously so no record can be erased or falsified. The...



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Zero Hedge

Art Berman: Exposing The False Promise Of Shale Oil

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Authored by Adam Taggart via PeakProsperity.com,

Estimates of recoverable oil are proving wildly wrong...

Art Berman, geological consultant with over 37 years experience in petroleum exploration and production, returns to the podcast this week to debunk ...



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ValueWalk

The SEC's Unconstitutional Conditions Doctrine?

By Jacob Wolinsky. Originally published at ValueWalk.

Princeton, NJ – A new commentary by Crow & Cushing, the SEC’s Unconstitutional Condition, examines a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the SEC’s practice of prohibiting defendants who settle civil charges with the SEC from making any public statement, even an indirect one, which takes issue with the validity of the SEC’s charges.

By U.S. Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsAccording to one study, the SEC settles ...



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Kimble Charting Solutions

Triple Breakout Test In Play For S&P 500!

Courtesy of Chris Kimble.

Is the rally of late about to run out of steam or is a major breakout about to take place in the S&P 500? What happens at current prices should go a long way in determining this question.

This chart looks at the equal weight S&P 500 ETF (RSP) on a daily basis over the past 15-months.

The rally from the lows on Christmas Eve has RSP testing the top of a newly formed falling channel while testing the underneath side of the 2018 trading range and its falling 50-day moving average at (1).

At this time RPS is facing a triple resistance test. Wil...



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Insider Scoop

Cars.com Explores Strategic Alternatives, Analyst Sees Possible Sale Price Around $30 Per Share

Courtesy of Benzinga.

Related 44 Biggest Movers From Yesterday 38 Stocks Moving In Wednesday's Mid-Day Session ...

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Chart School

Weekly Market Recap Jan 13, 2019

Courtesy of Blain.

In last week’s recap we asked:  “Has the Fed solved all the market’s problems in 1 speech?”

Thus far the market says yes!  As Guns n Roses preached – all we need is a little “patience”.  Four up days followed by a nominal down day Friday had the market following it’s normal pattern the past nearly 30 years – jumping whenever the Federal Reserve hints (or essentially says outright) it is here for the markets.   And in case you missed it the prior Friday, Chairman Powell came back out Thursday to reiterate the news – so…so… so… patient!

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell reinforced that message Thursday during a discussion at the Economic Club of Washington where he said that the central bank will be “fle...



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Members' Corner

Why Trump Can't Learn

 

Bill Eddy (lawyer, therapist, author) predicted Trump's chaotic presidency based on his high-conflict personality, which was evident years ago. This post, written in 2017, references a prescient article Bill wrote before Trump even became president, 5 Reasons Trump Can’t Learn. ~ Ilene 

Why Trump Can’t Learn

Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore (...



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Biotech

Opening Pandora's Box: Gene editing and its consequences

Reminder: We are available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

Opening Pandora's Box: Gene editing and its consequences

Bacteriophage viruses infecting bacterial cells , Bacterial viruses. from www.shutterstock.com

Courtesy of John Bergeron, McGill University

Today, the scientific community is aghast at the prospect of gene editing to create “designer” humans. Gene editing may be of greater consequence than climate change, or even the consequences of unleashing the energy of the atom.

...

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Mapping The Market

Trump: "I Won't Be Here" When It Blows Up

By Jean-Luc

Maybe we should simply try him for treason right now:

Trump on Coming Debt Crisis: ‘I Won’t Be Here’ When It Blows Up

The president thinks the balancing of the nation’s books is going to, ultimately, be a future president’s problem.

By Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay, Daily Beast

The friction came to a head in early 2017 when senior officials offered Trump charts and graphics laying out the numbers and showing a “hockey stick” spike in the nationa...



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OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio - week of September 11th, 2017

Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current  trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).

We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options. 

Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.

To learn more about the swing trading virtual portfolio (strategy, performance, FAQ, etc.), please click here ...



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Promotions

Free eBook - "My Top Strategies for 2017"

 

 

Here's a free ebook for you to check out! 

Phil has a chapter in a newly-released eBook that we think you’ll enjoy.

In My Top Strategies for 2017, Phil's chapter is Secret Santa’s Inflation Hedges for 2017.

This chapter isn’t about risk or leverage. Phil present a few smart, practical ideas you can use as a hedge against inflation as well as hedging strategies designed to assist you in staying ahead of the markets.

Some other great content in this free eBook includes:

 

·       How 2017 Will Affect Oil, the US Dollar and the European Union

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About Phil:

Philip R. Davis is a founder Phil's Stock World, a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders...

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Ilene is editor and affiliate program coordinator for PSW. She manages the site market shadows, archives, more. Contact Ilene to learn about our affiliate and content sharing programs.

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