Devang Mehta


University of Alberta

I’m using genome editing to understand how plants regulate their genes in response to changing environments. I also trying to find out if we can apply this knowledge to fine-tune plant metabolism to create better crops

Devang has contributed to 2 reports

Massive Science Report № 3

You Are What You Meat

We worked with scientists in the field to explain how we’re growing meats in labs—and when you can eat them. It's your introduction to the next agricultural revolution.

Massive Science Report № 1

You Don't Know GMOs

We've gathered a team of geneticists, biologists, and environmental scientists to bring you the most up-to-date report on the science, history, and safety of genetically-modified organisms.

Devang has authored 17 articles

Lab-grown meat could bring about the next agricultural revolution Read now →

Cultured meat would require less land, less water and potentially produce less greenhouse gases

The world's appetite for meat is growing. How will we satisfy it? Read now →

In the near future, "meat" could mean a lot more than it does now

Your bubble tea could hold the key to helping millions of farmers Read now →

Cassava, an African staple food crop, could be poised to become a major source of industrial starch thanks to CRISPR

Is it safe to eat GMO foods? Read now →

Here's everything that science tells us

How 'Frankenstein' unfairly sways the GMO debate Read now →

The novel ushered in a concept that actively harms the Global South two centuries later

Mark Lynas on the complexity of disagreeing on GMOs Read now →

'I try to take people at face value in terms of what their objections are, and to not ascribe them with ill-intent'

The art of publicly changing your mind on GMOs Read now →

'Seeds of Science' makes a persuasive case for GM technology by a man who used to oppose it

Why I'm quitting GMO research Read now →

Constantly confronting people who think my research will harm them is profoundly distressing

Plants are not conscious, whether you can 'sedate' them or not Read now →

A New York Times story is a case study in what can go wrong in translating science

Simulating evolution helped scientists design a better virus Read now →

It sounds like an arcane superpower. It boils down to random mutation and selection

Scientists are recruiting live bacteria to fight deadly infections Read now →

A study in rural India is raising hopes for a future without antibiotics

The prolific life of Wang Zhenyi, autodidact, astronomer, and poet Read now →

Progressive in science and art, she disregarded sexist norms of Qing-dynasty China

The Mother's Curse: how a French king’s legacy revealed a loophole in evolution Read now →

New research with roots in colonial Canada suggests new wrinkles in ideas of evolution

This biologist believes we should embrace human gene editing Read now →

It could free millions from preventable, predetermined suffering

Devang has left Comment 18 peer comments

We're studying collapsed civilizations so that ours can endure climate change Read now →

Paleoclimatologists are digging into the connections between the collapse of Maya Civilization and extreme droughts

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Billionaires are rushing into biotech. Inequality is following them into science Read now →

'Free-market philanthropy' raises yet more questions about the future of American public research

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Why is it so hard for scientists to talk about leaving academia? Read now →

We should value scientists who transfer their skills

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The Graduate Research Fellowship Program favors elite schools – again Read now →

The early-career grants, meant to boost diversity, end up perpetuating disparities

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How farmers on the Great Plains are changing the local climate Read now →

New crop practices trap more carbon in the soil, increasing rainfall and adding profits

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Don't fear germs – at least not too much Read now →

Microbes are neither purely 'good' nor 'bad'

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A rare disease offers clues to how genes affect social behavior Read now →

Williams syndrome is helping scientists understand the roots of sociality

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Should peer review stop being anonymous? Read now →

Prominent researchers can take the gamble, but junior scientists risk retribution

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A nuclear attack could be a lot like an asteroid strike Read now →

Nothing compares to the impact that killed the dinosaurs, but nuclear blasts are far more likely

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Low doses of contaminants, long ignored, can have vast consequences Read now →

Scientists found cocaine – and a lot of other chemicals – in Minnesota snow

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The brain treats questions about beliefs like physical threats. Can we learn to disarm it? Read now →

Street epistemologists are trying to give people 'the gift of doubt'

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Scientific knowledge is drowning in a flood of research Read now →

A comic about the problems with the -omics, illustrated by Matteo Farinella

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Is light pollution changing how plants do – and don't – grow? Read now →

Plants depend on cycles of light. Now, they're always on

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Toxic chemicals are being freed from melting glaciers Read now →

Scientists are finding decades-old DDT and PCB flowing from the Tibetan Plateau

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What ancient corn farmers can teach us about engineering crops for climate change Read now →

In the era of GMO crops, farmers can learn old lessons of diversity

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When you smell the roses, do they smell you back? Read now →

Scientists have found that plants like Canada goldenrod deploy defenses against insects on scent

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Devang has shared 5 notes

Scientists just cut the tolerable intake of PFAs by 99.9%

Poly- and  perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs) repel both oil and water. So, as Anna Robuck wrote last fall:

"...PFASs are everywhere: fire-fighting foams, nonstick cookware like  Teflon, stain-resistant carpet, water-resistant clothing, food  packaging, compostable plates, some cosmetics, and other consumer  products that repel oil, grease, or water." 

They're ubiquitous, and because of that, they end up in our bodies. Now, the European Food Safety Authority says that humans can tolerate approximately...*pulls out adding machine*....99.9% of what they've been exposed to in the past

In respone to this news, Robuck shared her thoughts: 

 "Ugh. Add this to the very-recent news that the US will refuse to set drinking water limits for these compounds

My family lives near DuPont HQ, and some back of the envelope  calculations suggest they (we) are drinking the weekly limit suggested  in your link over the course of about three hours."

What we know, and still don't know, about the CRISPR-modified twins

What we know:

  • Dr. Jiankiu He, a scientist in China claims to have edited the genome of two human embryos, which were then implanted and given birth to by their mother as twins, dubbed Lulu and Nana.
  • Dr. He says he edited the CCR5 gene, in order to provide the embryos with resistance to HIV infection. Jiankiu He says he did this because the father of the twins carried HIV. A version of CCR5 (CCR5-Δ32), mainly found in Northern European genomes, is known to confer immunity to certain variants of HIV. 
  • Based on Dr. He’s presentation at the 2nd International Summit on Human Gene Editing this week, one of the two embryos did not have all its cells edited, as a result it is not clear that this baby will have resistance to HIV. The other embryo has only a single-copy of CCR5 edited (humans have two copies of all genes), and the resulting edited gene is not yet known to confer resistance to HIV. It is possible that neither of the two babies will have resistance to HIV. It would certainly be unethical to test this!
  • There are other ways, such as sperm washing during IVF, to prevent HIV transmission from father to off-spring.
  • Dr. He also detected an “off-target” edit, i.e. another region of the genome that was edited by the CRISPR technology used. He suggested that this was unlikely to result in any adverse medical outcomes.
  • He’s experiment was performed in secrecy. His former employer has denied involvement in the trial. 
  • The informed consent form used by Dr. He appears to be misleading in terms of the risks involved.
  • Dr. He claims to have followed the recommendations of the US National Academies report on human gene-editing. However, his trial doesn’t seem to have followed several of these recommendations (highlighted below) and may yet ignore others. 

Restrictions on human germline editing (NASEM, 2017). Highlights showing points not met by Jiankiu He’s experiment.

  • Dr. He says he’s in the process of submitting a scientific manuscript for publication.
  • His experiment drew immediate criticism in China, with over a hundred scientists signing a letter decrying his work as unethical.

What we don’t yet know:

  • The role of He’s collaborator, Michael Deem, a professor of bioengineering at Rice University in the US.
  • There are media reports of a PR firm hired by He, but there’s no clarity about the role of this firm.
  • As of now it is still unclear which research institutions, which medical doctors, and which hospitals were involved in this project. 
  • The funding for the trial is still unclear. It appears to have been funded through He’s personal funds as well as funding from the Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Commission according to the clinical trial registration in China. The commission however has claimed to have never funded this project. 
  • Documents showing ethics approval from the Shenzhen HOME Women’s and Children’s Hospital appeared on social media. However the hospital seems to have lodged a complaint suggesting this form was forged. We need to learn more about the ethics and approvals pipeline followed by He. 
  • Dr. He has pledged to follow up with the health of the babies for the first 18 years of their life, however there is no information about who would be involved in this effort, nor what kind of tests this will involve, or how the results would be reported.
  • We do not yet know if the edits on the genome of the two babies will have any adverse effects. Some scientists have suggested that the method He used to screen the embryos for off-targets were insufficient. We will just have to wait and hope the babies do not suffer due to the editing. 

External Link MIT scientists invent an ion-drive powered plane with no moving parts

From Nature:

Researchers from MIT have flown a plane powered by an ‘ion drive’ for the first time. The drive uses high powered electrodes to ionise and accelerate air particles, creating an ‘ionic wind’. This wind drove a 5m wide craft across a sports hall. Unlike the ion drives which have powered space craft for decades, this new drive uses air as its accelerant. The researchers say it could power silent drones.

Check out this video featuring Steven Barrett, the researcher who led the team:

This first flight made it about as far as the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk. While it seems infeasible for passenger flights, it does have the potential to create a new class of small, silent, and clean drone aircraft.