This research into viruses could help us understand pandemics better — or it could cause one.

The bird flu is a deadly virus with the potential to spark a global pandemic. Now, thanks to the US government, two lab experiments trying to find ways to make it more dangerous will resume their work after years on hold.

It’s a troubling development, and one that highlights the risks of something called “gain-of-function” research. That’s research in which pathogens are manipulated to change their capabilities — usually to make them deadlier.

Science Magazine last week broke the news that the US had quietly approved the two dangerous and controversial experiments. One of them will begin within the next few weeks. The other is expected to begin later this spring. The two had been on hold since 2012 amid a fierce debate in the virology community about gain-of-function research. In 2014, the U.S. government declared a moratorium on such research.

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