Gene-edited pig livers and AI join forces against apartheid.

In a groundbreaking medical achievement, surgeons at the University of Pennsylvania attached a gene-edited pig liver to the veins of a brain-dead man for three days. The liver, stored in a refrigerator-size machine, allowed the man’s blood to pass through it, providing support for acute liver failure. The extracorporeal, or outside-the-body, liver is designed to assist patients until a human liver becomes available for transplant or until their own liver recovers. This innovative approach has the potential to save lives and provide temporary solutions for patients with liver failure.

In South Africa, researchers are using computer vision tools and satellite images to analyze the impact of racial segregation in housing. Led by Raesetje Sefala, the team at the nonprofit Distributed AI Research Institute is working to reverse racial segregation by studying the unequal access to education, healthcare, parks, and hospitals in predominantly Black townships compared to the more affluent white neighborhoods. By identifying areas of spatial apartheid, their research aims to address these social inequalities and promote a more equitable society.

Finally, a breakthrough gene-editing treatment using CRISPR technology has been developed to cure the symptoms of sickle-cell disease. Sickle-cell is a genetic disorder that affects nearly all African-Americans and leads to bouts of intense pain and a reduced life expectancy. While the treatment is a significant step forward, its high price tag of $2 to $3 million poses challenges for accessibility, particularly in Africa where sickle-cell disease is most prevalent. The development of more affordable treatments and their availability in regions heavily affected by the disease are crucial for effectively addressing the health disparities caused by sickle-cell disease.

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