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Designer baby revolution could be only two years away, research suggests | World News

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It could be less than two years until the creation of “ethically sound” designer babies begins, says one expert.

The risks of gene editing are now low enough to justify using the technique with human embryos, according to new analysis by Dr Kevin Smith, from Abertay University in Dundee.

He argues that in a few years a morally justifiable attempt could start a revolution in producing genetically-modified (GM) people.

Dr Smith said it could one day help protect people from deadly diseases and improve quality of life in older age.

Gene editing involves scientists adding, removing or altering an organism’s DNA.

Questions over using the technique on human genomes has always been controversial – particularly if certain changes are passed from one generation to the next.

Dr Smith said: “The human germline is by no means perfect, with evolution having furnished us with rather minimal protection from diseases that tend to strike in our later years, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia.

“GM techniques offer the prospect of protecting future people against these and other common disorders.

“This has previously been achieved to an extent in GM experiments on animals.

“If several common disorders could be avoided or delayed by genetically modifying humans, the average disease-free lifespan could be substantially extended.”

Dr Smith, head of Abertay’s biomedical science courses, said it could also give hope to parents at risk of transmitting serious genetic disease to their children.

However, he warns that an ethical approach is vital to win the trust of the public.

The world’s first gene-edited babies were born in China last year in an effort to make them resistant to HIV.

The development was widely criticised and the scientist involved had his work stopped as authorities investigated him for breaking the law.

Dr Smith’s analysis is published in the journal Bioethics.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Britons set to be evacuated from Wuhan | World News

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UK officials will try to evacuate all Britons from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday – as the Foreign Office warns against all but essential travel to mainland China.

Hong Kong and Macau are not affected by the new travel advice.

There are believed to be about 300 UK citizens still in the city of Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province.

China said a total of 106 people have now died in the country following the crisis, with more than 4,515 confirmed cases across the nation.

Both numbers rose dramatically in the latest update from the National Health Commission, with most of those affected hailing from Wuhan – the centre of the outbreak.

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Trump unveils Middle East peace plan which is ‘win-win’ for Israel and Palestinians | World News

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Donald Trump has unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, saying the “realistic” two-state solution is a “win-win opportunity” for both Israel and the Palestinians.

Speaking at the White House, the US president said his administration’s vision would form the basis of direct negotiations between the two sides which was a “historic breakthrough”.

The proposal calls for the creation of a State of Palestine with its capital in parts of east Jerusalem and it more than doubles the territory currently under Palestinian control.

But it also recognises Israeli sovereignty over major settlement blocs in the West Bank, something to which the Palestinians will almost certainly object.

The Palestinians have already rejected the proposal, accusing Mr Trump of being biased in favour of Israel as he has adopted policies that boost Israel at their expense.

Mr Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu together for Mr Trump's announcement
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Mr Trump was joined by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the announcement

However, the US president, speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel was taking a “giant step toward peace” and Palestinians deserved the chance for a better life.

Mr Trump said the deal was a “historic opportunity” for Palestinians to achieve an independent state of their own.

He said his vision will end the cycle of Palestinian dependence on charity and foreign aid, as he urged peaceful co-existence between the two sides.

The American leader said he told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that if he chooses peace then the US and other countries “will be there every step of the way to help”.

And urging peace in the region, Mr Trump said it was time for “this sad chapter in history to end”.

Mr Netanyahu said he has agreed to negotiate with the Palestinians because the peace plan “strikes a balance”.

However, an official with the ruling Hamas group in Gaza called Mr Trump’s statement “aggressive” and said the Jerusalem plan was “nonsense”.

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Thailand ‘not able to stop the spread’ of new coronavirus | World News

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Subtle changes are seeping into daily life in Bangkok.

Thermal scanners now stand at the doors of luxury malls and attendants pump disinfectant into the hands of visitors as they stream in.

With 14 cases, Thailand now has the highest confirmed number of coronavirus infections outside China and people are starting to worry.

Disinfectant is pumped into people's hands as they go shopping
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Disinfectant is pumped into people’s hands as they go shopping

“It’s spreading so fast and the information is so hidden, we don’t know the whole picture,” young mother Cathy told me.

Even her four-year-old son obediently wears a surgical mask.

“I’m worried that I’ll get sick and stay in hospital and there isn’t a vaccine,” commuter Nan added.

Already popular because of pollution, face masks are selling out.

The armour of choice, there are none to be found in one of the main shopping districts

“Finished,” shop assistants tell us again and again as we search for fresh supplies.

There are thermal scanners in shopping malls
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There are thermal scanners in shopping malls

Thailand is a top foreign holiday destination for tourists from Wuhan.

About 22,000 people from the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak have visited in January alone.

Six new cases were confirmed today, five of them involving a family from China’s Hubei province, and the sixth from Chongqing province.

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While all arrivals from China will now be screened and thermal scanned for signs of the disease, the coronavirus is believed to be contagious during the incubation period.

Thus it is feared that while visitors may not have any symptoms, they could in theory be spreading the infection.

That concern is helping to prompt criticism of the government’s response to the crisis.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul says they 'expect more people to get sick'
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Public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul says they ‘expect more people to get sick’

The hashtag #crapgovernment was trending top on Twitter in Thailand at the weekend as users complained about the management of the virus and other health issues.

The country’s prime minister says the situation is under control but public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul admitted to Sky News that he expects the number of infections to rise.

“We are not able to stop the spread,” he said.

“Our target is we will be able to detect all carriers entering Thailand and we will apply necessary measures as the situation develops.

“Of course we expect more people to get sick but we are able to identify all of them.”

There is no way of knowing how many more coronavirus infections will emerge in the coming days and weeks, so residents must continue to protect themselves as best they can.

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