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A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution Kindle Edition
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From the Publisher
About the Author
JENNIFER A. DOUDNA, Ph.D. is a professor in the Chemistry and the Molecular and Cell Biology Departments at the University of California, Berkeley, investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and researcher in the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She is internationally recognized as a leading expert on RNA-protein biochemistry, CRISPR biology, and genome engineering. She lives in the Bay Area.SAMUEL H. STERNBERG, Ph.D., is a biochemist and author of numerous high profile scientific publications on CRISPR technology. He is starting his own laboratory at Columbia University, as assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, beginning in 2018. He lives in New York City.
SAMUEL H. STERNBERG, Ph.D., is a biochemist and author of numerous high profile scientific publications on CRISPR technology. He is starting his own laboratory at Columbia University, as assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, beginning in 2018. He lives in New York City.
“The technology of gene editing will be the most important advance of our era, one that will create astonishing opportunities combined with frightening moral challenges. In the tradition of The Double Helix, one of the pioneers of the field describes the exciting collaborative and competitive hunt for the key breakthrough and what it portends for our future.”—Walter Isaacson, best-selling author ofSteve Jobs, Einstein, and The Innovators
“A Crack in Creation, by one of the most pioneering women in science, is both exhilarating and frightening. Jennifer Doudna and her coauthor Samuel Sternberg challenge us to confront the possible dangers of gene editing, even as we embrace its incredible potential. This book is a roadmap to our future.”—Arianna Huffington, best-selling author ofThriveand The Sleep Revolution
“Jennifer Doudna is the true pioneer who built the bridge between the basic science of CRISPR and its diverse applications in agriculture and medicine. Writing with Samuel Sternberg, she has crafted a beautifully written book with A Crack in Creation—a pure pleasure for both neophyte and expert. Now is the time to read about the revolution that could change our world.”—George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and author ofRegenesis
“We are developing ever more powerful tools that allow us to change the genetic makeup not only of life around us but also of ourselves. Describing the potential benefits of these tools as well as some of the risks and ethical issues they present to society, A Crack inCreation is a scientific thriller and a gripping read, framed as a personal voyage by a brilliant scientist who played a major role in developing what is currently one of the most promising and powerful ways of editing our genomes.”—Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
- Publication date : June 13, 2017
- File size : 16675 KB
- Print length : 307 pages
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Publisher : Mariner Books; Illustrated edition (June 13, 2017)
- ASIN : B01I4FPNNQ
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #32,371 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from the United States
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The reason is not simply because of the authors’ pedigree — co-author Jennifer Doudna is credited as the chief pioneer behind CRISPR, the potentially world-changing gene-editing technique. The book’s impact is also buttressed by the authors’ scientific rigor, deeply felt passion, and understanding of the world-changing consequences of their research.
Doudna and Samuel Sternberg’s “A Crack in Creation” is two books in one. The first third is a short primer on genetic engineering and the scientists who’ve advanced the science over the years. While the attention to detail and footnote-rich documentation is commendable, the lay reader will be forgiven if she skips through some of the dry backstory to get to the good stuff in the remaining two-thirds of the book. Because few of us have yet to reckon with the significant issues raised by the recent breakthroughs in CRISPR research, which only came to light in 2012.
As the authors write:
“Many experts predicted that CRISPR would be a research biologist’s dream come true, enabling experiments that one could have only fantasized about doing before. I imagined that it would democratize a technology that had once been the privilege of the few. … Now, CRISPR seemed to be on everyone’s lips and the topic of every conversation. And yet it was still only the tip of the iceberg. …
“As I sat on the plane flying back to San Francisco after that first trip to Cambridge, I could already see a new era of genetic command and control on the horizon—an era in which CRISPR would transform biologists’ shared toolkit by endowing them with the power to rewrite the genome virtually any way they desired. Instead of remaining an unwieldy, uninterpretable document, the genome would become as malleable as a piece of literary prose at the mercy of an editor’s red pen.”
Doudna’s initial worries centered on whether scientists would prematurely use CRISPR without proper oversight or consideration of the risks and whether bad actors might use the technology for nefarious purposes. So she took the first halting steps to begin a public dialogue about the implications of CRISPR research, first by organizing a roundtable of 17 scientists in January 2015 and then a larger gathering later that year to discuss gene therapy and germline enhancement. Those discussions continue to this day.
Meantime, other researchers and entrepreneurs got busy. Entire companies have sprung up with the mission of conquering such genetic disorders as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and Duchene muscular dystrophy. The reader roots along with the authors in cheering on what amounts to the beginning of what might be called “the precision genetic medicine revolution.”
It’s helpful that the authors translate scientific arcana into everyday language, as when they mention that a snippet of DNA being modified by CRISPR is “roughly one one-thousandth the width of a human hair” or that a molecule “acted like a set of GPS coordinates” to guide the replacement DNA to the right spot or when referring to an enzyme as a “motorized hedge clipper.”
Many readers will be interested in not today’s practical applications in the lab but in what tomorrow may herald. Count me in the latter category, as I just finished writing a suspense novel with CRISPR at the centerpiece. What’s so fascinating about the technology’s future prospects? The authors write:
“In the future, parents may be offered the option of selecting for traits that go beyond disease susceptibility and gender and cross into areas like behavior, physical appearance, or even intelligence. The list of known associations between certain gene variants and a diverse list of traits continues to grow, and as the PGD technology improves further, what’s to stop fertility clinics from consulting this genetic information so they can offer their consumers even more choices when it comes to selecting the most desirable or ‘best’ embryos?”
Entire conferences and mountains of newsprint will be devoted to dissecting the implications of CRISPR usage on early stage human embryos in the decades ahead. The door has just been cracked ajar.
Where does Doudna, the progenitor of CRISPR, come down on the ethical scales?
“I don’t believe there’s an ethical defense for banning germline modification outright, nor do I think we can justifiably prevent parents from using CRISPR to improve their chances of having a healthy, genetically related child, so long as the methods are safe and are offered in an equitable manner. … [But we also need to] redouble our commitment to building a society in which all humans are respected and treated equally, regardless of their genetic makeup. …
“Advances in gene editing are enabling us to rewrite the very language of life—and putting us closer to gaining near-complete control of our genetic destiny. Together, we can choose how best to harness this technology There’s simply no way to unlearn this new knowledge, so we must embrace it. But we must do so cautiously, and with the utmost respect for the unimaginable power it grants us.”
Well said. The authors smartly observe that society as a whole needs to be in on the decision on whether to move forward with certain aspects of the gene-editing revolution, and that scientists need to demystify the technology so the public can “understand their implications and decide how to use them.” Let the robust debate begin.
Amid all the excitement a dream in which she meets Adolph Hitler compelled Dr Doudna to ask the Frankenstein question: Just because we can do something (in this instance, edit the human germline), does that mean we should? In a collection of essays entitled "From Under the Rubble," Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn presents the image of technologists running hard to both keep up and stay ahead. They're running hard just to keep pace--heads down and tongues lolling, panting and sweating to stay ahead of the researcher on their heels while trying to overtake the researcher just ahead. But they never take the time to ask IF their research ought to proceed.
All credit is due Dr Doudna for exclaiming, Wait! We need to talk this through; this issue is too big for just science. Yes, she comes down on the side of racing forward. But the way she thinks through this potentially humanity changing science helped me see gene editing not just with layman's knowledge, but with compassion and a bit wider perspective than when I started the book. And yet ... while she pays polite lip service to potential religious concerns about gene editing, her embrace of random evolution leads her to view religious objections as antiquated notions that need only be addressed to be disposed.
Scientists (actually, their editors) writing for layman ought to include a glossary. That's missing. And her habit of expressing how brilliant her fellow scientists are gets pretty worn pretty fast. Regardless, A Crack In Creation deserves your attention. ~
Star Readers: from out of the east
The author's sometimes apparent (to me) hubris needs to be carefully balanced against the awesome power and "unknown unknowns" this technology may bring to humanity, e.g. a few passages leapt out, such as blithe dismissal of the likelihood of humans repeating the dark history of eugenics. Nevertheless, I believe the author is aiming to do good and this is an important contribution in shining a light in this area - I was surprised (and shocked) that science had progressed so far and so quickly, at least to me, without significant public debate or governmental intervention.
Top reviews from other countries
In the first part, the reader is invited to follow the process of discovering CRISPr and slowly recognizing the potential it may have in finding cures for hereditary illnesses or for facilitating genetic manipulation to optimize the productivity of crops. The reader is also introduced to the intricacies of cooperation in research, the risk of having one's discovery claimed by a colleague.
The second section presents various ethical considerations on why or why not this new method should be used, especially in the area of human genetics, specifically as to altering the germline. Doudna is to be highly respected for her unhesitatingly addressing this subject which is of interest to everyone.
Sketches and the language itslf make the book accessible both to the layman as well as to students and others. Popular science in the best sense of the phrase.
But the title rightly refers to "Creation" - which implies a Creator. And yet the hope is held out - completely unrealistically - that somehow reasonable people will be able to prevent purposeful terrorists, or just madmen/madwomen from using this technology to achieve cataclysmic results. It is a completely unrealistic hope - get ready for this - unles we have the blessing and protection of God, because only God can effectively protect us against terrorists. But since the purpose of life is to prepare for heaven - God's reason for creating us - why would we be protected from terrorists, the insane, our enemies, and even from ourselves (we are often the enemy, as Pogo said) if we are determined to go it alone - without God - thereby being allowed to continue on our misguided way? It is a misguided way because if we don't follow the "owner's handbook" that God has given us (the Ten Commandments or equivalent revelation if there is such), there is no way for us to foresee the complex consequences of changing the human genome - as the authors repeatedly remind us - and even those who mean well will manage to eventually and inadvertently destroy or devastate human life. But if we keep to the blueprint of creation ("Intelligent Design" if you will, or "Guided Evolution" or "Natural Law (moral law) and the Laws of Nature" if you prefer) - which does not preclude eradication of diseases resulting from random mutations - then we can be confident that we will not blunder unintentionally into a genetic Armageddon, and we should not be considered presumptuous to believe that God's blessing will then be pleasant rather than bitter. (We always have God's blessing, though it's not always pleasant, just as the blessing of a parent's discipline is not always pleasant love but sometimes "tough love". If people in general continue to refuse to "do the right thing" in large things and small in everyday life, against their consciences, then I would bet that tough love from the Creator, in one form or another, is in the offing.