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6 threats that could wipe out mankind, warn researchers

Gorkha Post

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LONDON — Scientists have identified six main threats that could wipe out mankind including killer robots and nuclear war.

They may sound like something from a Hollywood blockbusters – but researchers say they are “very real threats” that governments are failing to take seriously.

The Global Catastrophic Risks report lists dangers that could wipe out 10 percent or more of the world’s population – equal to at least 740million people.

The authors – including academics from Oxford University and the Global Priorities Project – point to the bouts of plague and the 1918 Spanish flu that wiped out millions.

The researchers claim engineered viruses, climate change, superbugs and droughts could also strike within the next five years.

They also warn that while the majority of generations never experience a catastrophe, they are far from ‘fanciful’.

The report says: “Plagues have killed over 10 per cent of world’s population and we came close to nuclear war several times in the 20th century.

“A global catastrophic risk not only threatens everyone alive today, but also future generations.”

The report calls for more funding, research and greater international cooperation to ensure the world is better placed to cope with the risks.

Sebastian Farquhar, from the Global Priorities Project, said: “There are some things that are on the horizon and things that probably won’t happen in any one year but could happen. They could completely reshape our world and do so in a really devastating and disastrous way.”

“History teaches us that many of these things are more likely than we intuitively think.”

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In the next five years, asteroids, super-volcanic eruptions and other unknown risks are ranked as the biggest threat to humanity.

Mr Farquhar said: “There is really no particular reason to think that humans are the pinnacle of creation and the best thing that is possible to have in the world. It seems conceivable that some AI systems might at some point in the future be able to systematically out-compete humans.”

“And if you have a sufficiently powerful form of artificially intelligent system, then there might be some sort of adverse consequences.”

Mr Farquhar warned militant groups like Islamic State may even manufacture their own viruses.

The report calls for the international community to improve planning for pandemics, investigate the possible risks of AI and biotechnology, and continue to cut the number of nuclear weapons.

Mr Farquhar said coping with these risks “definitely requires international co-ordination”.

“What is really important to remember is that many of these risks don’t stop at the borders and wait patiently for their passports to be checked, they are truly global in nature,” he added.

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Science & Technology

Researchers successfully grow human cells in sheep embryos

Raghu Kshitiz

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Researchers successfully grow human cells in sheep embryos. Represenatational image

KATHMANDU — In an incredible development that could possibly go a long way in medical practices, scientists in California are working on a way to reduce organ transplants and rejections: Growing embryos in sheep and pigs containing human patients’ cells.

In a transplant breakthrough, scientists at the University of California said they have achieved sheep embryos in which around one in every 10,000 cells was human, according to UPI report.

The researchers presented preliminary findings Saturday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas.

The new finding paves way for genetically tailoring the organs to be compatible with the immune system of the patient receiving them, thus removing the possibility of rejection, the report said.

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The hybrid embryos contain both human and sheep cells and were created in an early step toward growing human organs in farm animals before transplanting them into patients.

Last year, the same researchers introduced human stem cells into early pig embryos, producing embryos with about one in every 100,000 cells being human.

The experiment began with Hiro Nakauchi, from the University of Tokyo, who grew a mouse with a rat pancreas and a rat with a mouse pancreas.

When cells from the rat-grown mouse pancreas were transplanted into a diabetic mouse, they made enough insulin to cure the condition without being rejected.

Mice and rats are different types of rodents with the former having thin slightly hairy tails, while rats have thicker hairless scaly tails.

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“The next step was to move into large animals,” Nakauchi said. Since this was prohibited in Japan, he moved to the Stanford University in the US.

Nakauchi’s rodent work has demonstrated that you can “grow organs in a different species and cure a disease without [suppressing the immune system],” added co-researcher Pablo Ross, Professor at from the University of California, Davis.

“We are working together to translate the technology into humans, to solve the terrible shortage of organs for transplantation. In the US, 20 people die every day because they cannot get the organs they need,” Ross explained.

With Agency Inputs

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