Do robot boyfriends dream of electric sheep?

Plus, medical abortions, gene therapy hearings, and new egg freezing rules.

Hey, it’s Alex! Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment, share, and forward this email. 💜

Oops! I guess I was too early writing a roundup about the longevity sector, because news broke this week that Jeff Bezos has joined an impressive list of researchers and investors involved in a new rejuvenation startup, Altos Labs. But can it succeed where others have failed? Speaking of failure, I’m also keeping tabs on the Elizabeth Holmes trial. The former CEO is charged with fraud and conspiracy for massively mishandling her blood testing company Theranos, and I absolutely can’t wait to hear what investigative journalist John Carreyrou (who wrote a bestselling book about Holmes) has to say to the jury.

Oh, and happy new year!

Here’s the latest.


How close are we to having robot boyfriends?

Yes, we do need another movie about a human who falls in love with a robot.

But also, we need laws for sex robots, argues an Australian lawyer who wrote in an industry magazine that that due to the risks the robots pose (objectifying women, promoting sexual violence), regulations should be enacted sooner than later.

How would the organizers of the recent congress on Love & Sex with Robots respond, I wonder? Sex robots offer more questions than answers at the moment, including legal, ethical, and cultural ones. But it seems to me that “sextech” is very close at hand, especially since millions of people are literally trapped in their homes alone, avoiding the pandemic. There’s nothing like consumer need to drive an industry of “sexy Alexas.”


Egg freezing limits in the UK have been extended 🥂

Advocates for egg freezing in the UK are excited by the government’s announcement to extend the maximum storage limit for social egg freezing—up to 55 years! Previously, the “absurd” limit was 10 years.

“Prospective parents should not have to wrestle with time limits on their fertility choices, and this important change to storage timescales will give people more control over their future and eliminate the pressure that comes with knowing a decision has to be made within 10 years,” said James Bethell, the health minister responsible for innovation, to the Guardian.


WHAT?! Inmates say they were unknowingly given ivermectin: 'They were running experiments on us.' Insider.
Mercedes wants to build a car that drives with a brain-computer interface. PCmag

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After two days of Zoom meetings, no changes to gene therapy rules

The most popular way to administer a gene therapy is through an adeno-associated virus, or AAV. But it’s unclear whether high doses of AAV can be toxic or if they are responsible for some of the scary side effects seen recently in gene therapy trials—cancers, liver problems, and nervous system inflammation, among others.

FDA’s verrry long meeting on AAVs last week resulted in a big shrug and no major changes to regulation. Are AAVs harmful? Ultimately, there was not enough evidence to make a determination. But a key point, via BioPharmaDive, is that while drug makers and regulators want to have safe therapies on the market, the risk assessments are “inconsistent,” making it challenging for regulators to establish limits on dosing. There is no one way to produce these therapies, or test their safety. Plus, pharma companies with gene therapy products aren’t interested in making them more expensive to produce. Will the FDA tighten the rules and come up with some standards? 🤞


Please read this hilarious story that has everything: crypto bros, seasteading, libertarians, and 5,000 bottles of wine.


Scientific knowledge is for everyone!

I was really flattered to be invited to join a panel at Ars Electronica, an annual arts, science, and technology festival. The discussion took the form of a “performative debate” about who should be able to access biology labs and whether biohackers are a security threat. My part starts at 27:50. 🔥🔥🔥


Learning to biohack medical abortions may be necessary

In light of the Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks and incentivizes vigilante justice, millions of women are unable to access legal and safe medical care to terminate a pregnancy, potentially changing the risk/benefit calculus for DIY abortions. I have argued that given the many risks of unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions, it may be ethical to make abortion pills in a DIY setting when considered through a harm reduction lens.

Last week I shared a study that found medical abortions via telemedicine services were safe. Now, I’ll share a video from the biohacker group Four Thieves Vinegar collective about making your own pills*, as well as a World Health Organization protocol for using misoprostol, which can often be found over the counter for treating stomach ulcers. The WHO-recommended method for medical abortion up to 12 weeks is mifepristone followed by misoprostol, but because the latter is much easier to find, providers say it is possible to safely use misoprostol alone, although the effectiveness is lower (pages 45-49). Here’s a great Q&A about the DIY abortion movement that has a lot more information.

*I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice, it is merely informative and easy to share.


Extra Credit:

Biodesign Challenge x Google Hardware Design Studio: Apply now!
Will Ginkgo Bioworks be the next Microsoft? Forbes
All your questions about human cloning, answered. The Niche
Meet the Black farmers fighting food deserts in New York. Vice
Can progressives be convinced that genetics matter? The New Yorker
Australia is inching closer to mitochondrial replacement. ABC News
Should CRISPR patent holders decide who gets to make designer babies? JAMA
Civilian astronauts go to space—and Netflix! The Guardian
FDA is not amused by drug maker that says microbiome therapeutic is maybe a food. Stat