Top stories: a shocking CRISPR claim, a Mars landing, and a geneticist’s take on gene-editing controversy | Science

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(left to right): Mark Schiefelbein/AP PHOTO; JPL-CALTECH/NASA; © KEN RICHARDSON

CRISPR bombshell: Chinese researcher claims to have created gene-edited twins

This week, on the eve of the International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, China, He Jiankui, a Chinese researcher, shocked many with claims that his team had used CRISPR-Cas9 to engineer the DNA of twin baby girls born recently to cripple a key receptor on white blood cells to make them HIV-resistant. The claim—yet to be reported in a scientific paper—was met with a firestorm of criticism, with some scientists and bioethicists calling the work “premature,” “ethically problematic,” and even “monstrous.”

Mars mission got lucky: NASA lander touched down in a sand-filled crater, easing study of planet’s interior

NASA’s InSight spacecraft survived its harrowing descent through the thin atmosphere of Mars and successfully landed on the planet’s surface this week. Although InSight didn’t hit the bull’s-eye of its target landing zone, the soil-filled crater into which the craft touched down offers a good environment for the lander to deploy instruments for studying the planet’s interior. 

‘I feel an obligation to be balanced.’ Noted biologist comes to the defense of gene-editing scientist

This week, only one prominent scientist quickly spoke out in defense of He Jiankui, the Chinese research who claimed to have created the first gene-edited children: geneticist George Church, whose Harvard University lab played a pioneering role in developing CRISPR, the genome editor used to engineer embryonic cells in the controversial experiment. Although Church has reservations about He’s actions, he also says the frenzy of criticism surrounding the experiment was extreme.

Watch humpback whales trick thousands of fish into becoming dinner

The humpback whale has one of the biggest mouths on the planet—and an appetite to match. The bus-size mammals can eat up to 2500 kilograms of fish a day, and a new study reveals one way they snag these huge numbers: By opening their mouths half out of the water, they make small ponds that many fish mistake for refuges. Once enough have gathered in the whales’ mouths, they clamp their jaws shut on an easy snack.

Spider moms spotted nursing their offspring with milk

Got milk? Researchers observed jumping spider moms depositing droplets of milk around the nest for their offspring to sip on. After a few days, the baby spiders began to line up at the entrance of their mother’s birth canal to suckle, and they continued to supplement their diets with milk until they reached sexual maturity. This level of long-term parental care is virtually unheard of in insects or any species outside of large, social mammals, like humans and elephants.



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