By Jacob Solis

INTERNATIONAL

UK approves first studies of gene editing technology

The U.K.’s Human Fertilization and Embryo Authority made the decision Monday to move forward with research into a gene-editing technology called CRISPR, according to Time Magazine.

This marks the first time CRISPR has been sanctioned for use on human embryos. CRISPR, which was first developed by scientists last year after they discovered it inside bacteria, allows for the direct removal or addition of any gene in the genome.

It has so far been used to cut out HIV and alter cancer cells to make chemotherapy more effective. However, the gene editor has prompted a fair amount of controversy, as people are wary of “designer babies” or a possible butterfly effect that might emerge from tampering with genes.

The embryos being modified in the U.K. will not be allowed to develop beyond 14 days, with the point of the exercise lying in better understanding human biology.

NATIONAL

Ted Cruz pulls ahead in Iowa caucus while Dems stay in a dead heat

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz pulled out a come-from-behind victory Monday with 28 percent of the Iowa caucus firmly in his camp. Real estate mogul Donald Trump came to a disappointing second, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio rose quickly to a strong third-place finish.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie sanders are deadlocked with approximately 50 percent of the vote each. The tie is so close that as of print time on Monday night, it is too close to call.

Though he hasn’t technically won, Sanders’ virtual tie with Clinton is a marked step up from the start of his campaign, which was marked by obscurity on the national stage.

LOCAL

WCSD focuses in on increasing graduation rates

Monday, Feb. 1 the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees and Superintendent Traci Davis came together for the 2016 State of Education address. The discussion is part of an effort to strengthen the relationship between the school district, Board of Trustees and families in Washoe.

During the conversation, Davis highlighted the district’s Building Blocks of Success, a seven-pronged plan to help students find greater academic success. Some aspects of the plan include the importance of the various roles of more than 8,000 district employees and the strategic plan known as Envision WCSD 2020 — Investing In Our Future, a roadmap for the District’s current goals and mission.

Davis also discussed an emphasized focus on student success, which includes greater usage of Social and Emotional Learning programs.

Ultimately, the district’s plan is an attempt to reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. A goal that seems more attainable than ever with the rate reaching 75 percent in 2015 — a 9 percent increase from 2012.

Davis believes the goal is well within reach and stated, “our 64,000 students are depending on us, and we are up to the task,” reiterating on the district’s adjusted focus.

Jacob Solis can be reached at jsolis@sagebrush.unr.edu and on Twitter @TheSagebrush. Marcus Lavergne contributed to this report.