CRISPR Becoming Crisper, More Ubiquitous, Says Zhang

Dr. Feng Zhang spoke on CRISPR technology.
Dr. Feng Zhang spoke on CRISPR technology.

What plastics were to a young Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate and what computers were to a young Wozniak and Jobs in their garage-era tinkering is now occupied by CRISPR technology, suggested Dr. Feng Zhang of MIT in the final Wednesday Afternoon Lecture of 2017 on June 28.

Speaking in a packed Masur Auditorium, where he posed for selfies with audience members before taking the stage, Zhang traced CRISPR technology from its origins as a mechanism developed by bacteria to defend itself against pathogens to its current status as a sophisticated gene editor.

“It’s like a cursor in Microsoft Word,” said Zhang. “Wherever you can place it, you can make the edit.”

Only 35, Zhang has already revolutionized science in two ways, said NICHD microbiologist Dr. Gigi Storz, who introduced him. He is an alumnus of optogenetics pioneer Dr. Karl Deisseroth’s laboratory at Stanford and, since early 2011, has been working to harness clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic repeats, or CRISPR, systems for genome editing.

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GOING VIRAL
Pediatrician Discusses Ethics of Parents’ Online Posts

Dr. Silvana Barone
Dr. Silvana Barone

Many parents are quick to post photos of their kids on social media or blog about their child’s health. Parents have learned a thing or two from this practice—from foods to entice picky toddlers to favorite remedies for rashes and other common ailments—and often turn to online communities to share their experiences and network with other families.

On one hand, blogging and posting on such sites as Facebook and Twitter raise questions of privacy and other concerns unique to the pediatric population. But posting such information often provides social and emotional support; this is particularly salient for parents of children with complex or critical illness.

“Since we know social support for parents with generally healthy children is important, it actually may be critical for parents of children with complex or life-limiting illness, particularly when a diagnosis requires daily care and monitoring,” said Dr. Silvana Barone, a pediatrician recently transplanted from Montreal who is currently a clinical fellow in pediatric hospice and palliative medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. She spoke at a recent NIH bioethics group discussion in Bldg. 50.

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