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The Download: three-parent baby issues, and a solar balloon test

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Three-parent baby technique could create babies at risk of severe disease

When the first baby born using a controversial procedure that meant he had three genetic parents was born back in 2016, it made headlines. The baby boy inherited most of his DNA from his mother and father, but he also had a tiny amount from a third person.

The idea was to avoid having the baby inherit a fatal illness. His mother carried genes for a disease in her mitochondria. Swapping these with genes from a donor—a third genetic parent—could prevent the baby from developing it. The strategy seemed to work.

But it might not always be successful. MIT Technology Review can reveal two cases in which babies conceived with the procedure have shown what scientists call “reversion.” In both cases, the proportion of mitochondrial genes from the child’s mother has increased over time, from less than 1% in both embryos to around 50% in one baby and 72% in another.

Fortunately, both babies were born to parents without genes for mitochondrial disease. But the scientists behind the work believe that around one in five babies born using the three-parent technique could eventually inherit high levels of their mothers’ mitochondrial genes.

For babies born to people with disease-causing mutations, this could spell disaster—leaving them with devastating and potentially fatal illness. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

Researchers launched a solar geoengineering test flight in the UK last year

Last September, researchers in the UK launched a high-altitude weather balloon that released a few hundred grams of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, a potential scientific first in the solar geoengineering field, MIT Technology Review can reveal.

In theory, spraying sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere could mimic a cooling effect that occurs in the aftermath of major volcanic eruptions, reflecting more sunlight into space in a bid to ease global warming. It’s highly controversial given concerns about potential unintended consequences, among other issues.

But the UK effort was not a geoengineering experiment. Rather, the stated goal was to evaluate a low-cost, controllable, recoverable balloon system. And some are concerned that the effort went ahead without broader public disclosures and engagement in advance. Read the full story.

—James Temple

The 11th Breakthrough Technology of 2023 takes flight

It’s official—after over a month of open voting, hydrogen planes are the readers’ choice for the 11th item on our 2023 list of Breakthrough Technologies!

It just so happens there’s also some exciting news about hydrogen planes this week. Startup Universal Hydrogen is planning a test flight today. If all goes according to plan, it’ll be the largest aircraft yet to fly powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

But even if the test flight is successful, there’s a long road ahead before cargo or passengers will climb aboard a hydrogen-powered plane. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly climate change and energy newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

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The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 OpenAI wants to make AI smarter than humans
Rushing to build such models doesn’t exactly fill ethicists with confidence, though. (Vox)
AI-powered search is getting really messy. (Slate $)
Chatbots aren’t human, and we’d do well to remember that. (NY Mag $)
OpenAI could do with a bit less hype, according to executive Mira Murati. (Fast Company $)
How to create, release, and share generative AI responsibly. (MIT Technology Review)

2 The hunt for greener graphite is on
It’s essential for EV batteries, and supplies are running low. (Economist $)
A village in India has been caught in the crosshairs of a lithium mining boom. (Wired $)

3 Twitter is being stretched to breaking point
It’s running on a skeleton staff, and glitches and outages keep cropping up. (WSJ $)
It suffered a major outage just yesterday. (BBC)
Twitter’s becoming a seriously boring place to be. (FT $)
What happened to Elon Musk’s plan to turn it into an “everything app”?  (Ars Technica)
Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will

Read More

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: three-parent baby issues, and a solar balloon test
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/03/02/1069318/download-three-parent-baby-issues-solar-ballon-test/
Published Date: Thu, 02 Mar 2023 13:10:00 +0000

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