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A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution

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Two scientists explore the potential of a revolutionary genetics technology capable of easily and affordably manipulating DNA in human embryos to prevent specific diseases, addressing key concerns about related ethical and societal repercussions.


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Two scientists explore the potential of a revolutionary genetics technology capable of easily and affordably manipulating DNA in human embryos to prevent specific diseases, addressing key concerns about related ethical and societal repercussions.

30 review for A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mario the lone bookwolf

    One of the essential key technologies for the future of humanity The previous methods before CRISPR were also not exactly precision instruments. Be it the use of radioactivity or toxicity, the gene gun, PCR, TALEN, CNF or genome editing. The susceptibility for errors was different, but in principle, the researchers always played to a part the crazy scientist who created new life. The critical difference is that a cheap mass application is possible with CRISPR. Imagine a biotech toy box for childr One of the essential key technologies for the future of humanity The previous methods before CRISPR were also not exactly precision instruments. Be it the use of radioactivity or toxicity, the gene gun, PCR, TALEN, CNF or genome editing. The susceptibility for errors was different, but in principle, the researchers always played to a part the crazy scientist who created new life. The critical difference is that a cheap mass application is possible with CRISPR. Imagine a biotech toy box for children, with which they can tinker their cuddly pets or lethal viruses. It no longer seems too utopian. Also, the even more unrestricted contamination of nature is thus open to the flood of new life. One should imagine what comes together in a sewer system or the deltas of rivers in the long run. After all, the underlying method is based on an adaptive antiviral defense mechanism of bacteria. Moreover, we will integrate it everywhere possible what could have funny or tragic consequences. The risk must be considered realistic. What is going to happen in the worst case, especially in face of and concerning exploitation and destruction of nature that could be reduced? In comparison, a genetically modified super invader is almost nothing. Much more attention is paid to the dangers of genetic engineering than to the destruction of the environment but what is despicable and exploitative is the patenting of life forms and the current misuse of technology by various biotech, pharmaceutical, agricultural and seed companies. They monopolize the plants and animals, which still actually belong to everyone. The long-term consequences and contamination of the environment are not taken into account which causes in the US, among other things, that the non-genetically modified species go extinct. Because the pimped super vegetables supplant the natural competitors by two methods. On the one hand, the hybrid plants are immune to the various agricultural chemicals and furthermore, they mix more and more in the gene pool and there are fewer and fewer original plants left. The wild species die or are so profoundly contaminated that there is no unmodified genetic material left. The same thing happens with pets and livestock. The best and most cute animals are genetically modified and the not so good, tasty or less cuddly species are becoming less or more contaminated sooner or later. If the last wild animals disappear, an original species is extinct. In insects, as in the various extermination concepts for mosquitoes, when genetically modified organisms are released as extermination tools, this can trigger unimagined chain reactions. However, the legitimacy of this argument is difficult because of the victims of mosquito-borne diseases. A worst-case scenario would be to eradicate the disease carriers using Gene Drive and other methods. However, after a short cheer, it turns out that without them, the entire food chain collapses and it comes to famine. Like all technologies, genetic engineering can be used responsibly or abused without restraint and drawing the line is complicated. Genetic change is evolution and nature has always used genetic engineering. Viruses have been using genetic engineering inside us for millions of years, manipulating our DNA to make themselves immortal. How many of our bodily functions and reproductive possibilities are adaptations of viruses and other microorganisms can not yet be quantified. One knows too little about it. The door to arbitrariness, greed for profit and omnipotence fantasies of the man about nature should not be opened. However, pure conservatism and undifferentiated hostility against science are as bad. They may sometimes appear hypocritical as altruistic commitment and conservation but on the contrary, they are similar, antiquated vehicles like optimizing the use of every natural resource. One has to balance the optimistic and pessimistic models of explanation against each other. Indeed, various nemesis could be bred, and irreversible interference with nature could be caused when the organisms mess things up in the ecosystem. But one can also fix it with the same methods that caused the damage and without genetic engineering tools, many natural spaces may be lost forever. On the positive side, nothing less than the solution to many human problems is within reach. Be it the path to immortality, the cure of many illnesses, the help against world hunger, the adaptation of people to space, neuro-enhancement, prevention of the outbreak of hereditary diseases, etc. What is often forgotten in the public debate is the economic use of microorganisms. You can do pretty much anything with it, from renewable resources to various raw materials for industry and food. Bioreactors as part of energy self-sufficient, giant greenhouses and fish and insect breeding facilities in major cities. The author represents a realistic and wise view of the moral obligations that must be borne by technology. Unfortunately, not all humans do that. One question is whether ethical policy debates in such dimensions have a right to exist or are not prior unethical when it comes to saving the lives of millions and improving the lives of billions. A sharp and purely scientific calculation with hard facts is appropriate and not fundamental, philosophical debates about artifacts, such as the limitations of human empowerment to intervene in natural processes. The strange thing is that even in this dimension sex is the stimulus word. If, for millennia, only plants and animals are bred and genetically modified for decades, that does not matter. Fauna and flora are massively affected by crossbreeding hybrids, but as long as it doesn´t get nasty and filthy, nobody cares. If, on the other hand, a fetus at a very early stage, or even just an ovum, is slightly pimped, there is resentment. Real dying people are not mentioned and unconscious eggs and sperm seem to have more rights than people in developing countries and the impoverished population in the countries of the egg and sperm owners. Outdated beliefs also play a role here. However, delaying the future and playing ethics seminar because of these anachronisms, is perverse. The attitude of certain institutions also plays a role here. They have already made a name for themselves in preventing the availability of contraception to reduce unwanted pregnancies and diseases. It is like being against the fire because you can burn yourself or cause a forest fire. Also, so to prefer to chew around for hours on raw meat and complain about the negligent querulants from the other cave, which maintain a permanent fire. This glaring light of knowledge and progress is undoubtedly bad for the eyes and brains of the hairy little humanoid apes. A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real-life outside books: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CRISPR

  2. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This book's coauthor, Jennifer Doudna, together with Emmanuelle Charpentier published a seminal 2012 paper that demonstrated that CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) could be used for programmable gene editing. The whole field of CRISPR has since become the hottest focus of biological research because its use now provides a relatively low cost and simple way to make precise changes to the double helix DNA strand. This book is written in the first person voice of Dou This book's coauthor, Jennifer Doudna, together with Emmanuelle Charpentier published a seminal 2012 paper that demonstrated that CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) could be used for programmable gene editing. The whole field of CRISPR has since become the hottest focus of biological research because its use now provides a relatively low cost and simple way to make precise changes to the double helix DNA strand. This book is written in the first person voice of Doudna and first tells of her academic training and how she came to learn about CRSPR. Then the book provides a short history of the development of gene splicing techniques. Various methods of gene targeting and splicing had been developed (TALEN and ZFNs) prior to the discovery of CRISPR, but they were difficult and expensive procedures. The book then reviews possible future applications of CRSPR in congenital and infectious diseases (cure MD and prevent AIDS), medicine (immunological targeting of cancer cells), surgery (growing human compatible organs for implantation), zoology (bring back the wooly mammoth), entomology (get rid of mosquitos), and agriculture (disease resistant super crops). Science is in the early stages of research that will bring these applications into popular use, but it seems that almost anything imaginable may be possible. The applications listed above within parenthesis are examples selected from the many discussed by this book. The book also describes various possible means of delivery. It also discusses the difference between making changes outside (in vitro) versus introduction of change agents directly to a living body. Toward the end of the book Doudna discusses her role in organizing the first conferences to discuss the ethics of making changes that will be inherited by future generations (a.k.a germ-line modification). Humans now can influence the future evolution of species, including humans. The discussion of possible future changes that might be desired by humans beyond the eradication of congenital diseases can lead to unexpected possibilities. One hilarious possibility that caught my eye was the ability of reduce underarm odor (a known simple change to the DNA is known to make a difference). The history of the discovery of CRISPR reminded me of the following quotation:The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny …”
 — Isaac AsimovIt's my guess that the initial observations of the existence and biological use of CRISPR may have included a version of the above quotation. What was so strange about CRISPR is that it appears in all biological families including Archaea which means the pattern developed extremely early in evolution. Its persistence and prevalence must mean that it is essential for life, but in the early years after its discovery its possible purpose was a mystery. It even had been thought of as "junk" DNA since it seemed to serve no purpose. Another "aha moment" came in the early 2000s when a yogurt manufacturer in Denmark noticed that their bacterial yogurt cultures were able to steal bits of DNA from attacking bacteriophages and use them to make themselves immune from attack. CRISPR appeared to be used in finding the locations on the DNA strand to be changed. It was this and other papers at this time that alerted the research community to the fact that CRISPR appeared to be nature's own method of making gene edits at precise locations. It can be argued that the possibility of controlling biological evolution may prove to be the most significant scientific breakthrough ever made toward the relief of human suffering. Of course, there may be unintended consequences. The following link is to an article about UC Berkeley's lawsuit challenging MIT's Broad Institute's CRISPR patent: https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/13/15...

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Rubenstein

    This is a wonderful book, written by the scientist who discovered that the CRISPR reaction could be applied as a powerful gene-editing tool. In the first half of the book, Jennifer Doudna writes a powerful story about the history of gene manipulation and eventually, gene editing. With this technique, scientists can edit an individual DNA letter, replacing or inserting mutation or error in the DNA code. The first half of the book is very technical, and I cannot say that I followed it completely. This is a wonderful book, written by the scientist who discovered that the CRISPR reaction could be applied as a powerful gene-editing tool. In the first half of the book, Jennifer Doudna writes a powerful story about the history of gene manipulation and eventually, gene editing. With this technique, scientists can edit an individual DNA letter, replacing or inserting mutation or error in the DNA code. The first half of the book is very technical, and I cannot say that I followed it completely. The book is illustrated with numerous diagrams, but unfortunately, these diagrams did not shine much insight into the discussion. I am not really sure why they were included, at all. The CRISPR reaction is a method that evolved in bacteria, to defend against invading viruses. Jennifer Doudna, in collaboration with other scientists, discovered how that very method could be used to edit genes with very high efficiency. Moreover, the method is relatively simply, and does not require an expensive laboratory. The second half of the book is much less technical in nature. First, the book describes a number of successful uses of CRISPR, in the manipulation of genes in plants, animals, and even in humans. Then the book changes course somewhat, and describes the ethical dilemmas that await society, as we discover the capabilities and limitations of gene editing. These dilemmas will occur when attempts to edit the human genome are begun in earnest. What will be the unintended consequences? The techniques have the greatest promise in curing genetically inherited diseases, like sickle cell, Tay Sachs, some types of cancer, and many others. Right now, there is the possibility that CRISPR might edit no only the intended DNA sequence, but other DNA sequences as well. Perhaps in time, such problems will be overcome. I just love books by scientists who have been at the forefront of research--provided that the books are well written. This book certainly qualifies, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to anybody who is interested in the new revolutionary advances in the forefront of science and medicine.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Max

    On October 22nd 2019 an article ran in The Guardian announcing the first birthdays of twin girls. What made them special is that they are the first humans to be born from gene edited embryos, the first reported case of humans determining their own evolution. The girls’ genes were modified to make them resistant to HIV. Their children will be able to inherit the same trait. The gene edit may make them more susceptible to other diseases such as West Nile virus. How many other ways this may affect On October 22nd 2019 an article ran in The Guardian announcing the first birthdays of twin girls. What made them special is that they are the first humans to be born from gene edited embryos, the first reported case of humans determining their own evolution. The girls’ genes were modified to make them resistant to HIV. Their children will be able to inherit the same trait. The gene edit may make them more susceptible to other diseases such as West Nile virus. How many other ways this may affect the girls is not known. Performed in China with the parent’s approval, this first instance of gene modification of the human germline will be just the beginning. We are entering the era of designer babies. The tool used is known as CRISPR-Cas9. Its advent has bestowed a new level of precision in gene editing and made the technique readily available for widespread use. The story of CRISPR and its impact is the subject of Doudna’s book. Doudna is a biochemist who spent years running a lab at the forefront of CRISPR research. CRISPR is derived from bacteria that use a package of enzymes and RNA to disable viral phages by cutting out a piece of their DNA. Over the past decade Doudna’s lab and others tinkered with the native bacterial package turning it into a tool that can cut and replace any desired segment of DNA in a cell. CRISPR-Cas9 has two basic parts, a guide RNA sequence that mimics the target DNA and a DNA cutting enzyme. The RNA finds and matches up with the DNA target signaling Cas9 to cut out the indicated strand. To disable a gene that is all that is needed. To replace it an RNA template is provided to the cell to use in its repair of the cut. For example in sickle cell disease one sole DNA letter is at fault. To change it the template would substitute the correct letter. CRISPR can also be used to replace longer DNA sequences and multiple sequences. CRISPR while a huge improvement over prior techniques has some limitations with delivery and accuracy. Sometimes an untargeted DNA sequence can be changed and targeted sequences can be missed. But since Doudna’s book was published two years ago, there have been significant enhancements to the technology. One that increases accuracy is called prime editing. With so many scientists focused on CRISPR, It can’t be many years before a future version operates as reliably as the find and replace feature on your computer. Delivery of the CRISPR package to somatic cells in vivo (in a living organism) can be difficult. As with prior gene therapies an agent such as a virus must target and insert CRISPR in the intended cells. However, there has been success doing this in animal models. Delivery ex vivo such as editing T cells to fight blood cancers is much easier. Delivery to a single cell embryo that has been fertilized in vitro is quite easy. Afterwards the embryo can be examined to verify the proper edit has been made before it is implanted. Doudna divides her book into two sections. The first part is about the discovery of CRISPR and the refinement of it into a useful gene editor. The second part covers what CRISPR can do and the concerns that accompany those applications. She gives us a little history of gene editing and goes into how she got involved and the work her lab did to make CRISPR a more reliable product. In the telling we learn some science that is nicely presented in an accessible way. The telling of the story is delivered in the first person and Duodna herself is at the center of it. Many sentences begin with “I”. I felt the many personal asides and antidotes were distracting. Other readers may like the personal touch. The second section deals with Duodna’s realization that she has helped unleash a product that can be misused in catastrophic ways. She references Oppenheimer as an example of her own tormented mind. Both scientists were driven to accomplish their goal. Afterward they considered the consequences and how those made them feel. There is a tremendous amount of good that CRISPR and its successors can accomplish from basic research to improving crops and farm animals for better yields and nutrition to fixing and preventing many diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s, HIV, hemophilia and Duchenne muscular dystrophy to name just a few. There will certainly be great demand from families affected by these terrible diseases. There will also be demand not just to eliminate disease but to alter physical appearance and other attributes. It is important to consider that when the fixes are in the human germline, they perpetuate in all following generations. Gene functions are complex and intertwined. Changing them can lead to unintended consequences. In my view, unlike Huxley’s Brave New World we won’t have to wait until the year 2540 for gene editing technology to change the world, 2054 is more like it. If rich parents see no problem spending vast sums to put their children in a choice college, what will they spend to make sure their children (and grandchildren) are smart, beautiful, athletic, etc? Duodna proposes approaching the problem in traditional ways with conferences, international agreements, guidelines, laws where they can be passed, making the public aware, etc. But the genie is out of the bottle and if what we have seen from the stem cell industry is any indication, I would expect the gene editing business to pop up worldwide. Just like the stem cell clinics that now litter the globe offering untested treatments, clinics offering CRISPR technology will be fraught with danger though much of it may not be evident for generations. Duodna mentions that her co-author, Sam Sternberg, had already been interviewed by a startup that would offer clients a “CRISPR baby.” She notes, “…an aspiring scientist with the most basic training can accomplish feats that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.” Sophisticated software is readily available to identify gene sequences for targeting. Duodna adds that some experts say “…with today’s tools, anyone can set up a CRISPR lab for just $2,000.” Do it yourself kits are selling for $130. She wonders if we could see a modern day reprise of the eugenics movement. We should be aware of a technology called “gene drive”. This is the placement of new genes in with existing “selfish genes” which means that more than the normal 50% of offspring inherit the new traits. Such placement ensures rapid spread through a population. CRISPR is the perfect tool to accomplish this. Also CRISPR itself can be placed in the genome along with a genetic payload, which would then be copied to other chromosomes and spread throughout the genome. Gene drives have been proposed to eradicate mosquitoes by spreading recessive sterilization genes through the population until it would collapse. DARPA has invested $100 million and the Gates Foundation $75 million on research into this. Gene drives are a potentially dangerous technology that could have unforeseen environmental consequences. Gene drives could also be militarized targeting food sources or even microbes in the human microbiome. These applications have been referred to as “gene bombs”. Duodna clearly sees the danger and she spends chapters lamenting over it. While I found her angst and bad dreams a bit much, her points are all well taken. The title of The Guardian article referenced above, “Gene editing like Crispr is too important to be left to scientists alone,” sums it up. I highly recommend this book for those unfamiliar with the topic. It’s timely, important and accessible.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrej Karpathy

    Very similar to Watson's "The Double Helix", this book is a part story of discovery and part a textbook, in this case on the topic of CRISPR, from a scientist deeply and technically involved in the technology. The first half of the book explains the basics of DNA, the central dogma, the massive, ancient (and still ongoing) virus-bacteria molecular warfare, the historical context of gene editing research, and finally how CRISPR was discovered and why it is such a big deal. CRISPR evolved as part o Very similar to Watson's "The Double Helix", this book is a part story of discovery and part a textbook, in this case on the topic of CRISPR, from a scientist deeply and technically involved in the technology. The first half of the book explains the basics of DNA, the central dogma, the massive, ancient (and still ongoing) virus-bacteria molecular warfare, the historical context of gene editing research, and finally how CRISPR was discovered and why it is such a big deal. CRISPR evolved as part of a bacterial immune system where the bacteria stores explicit records of viral DNA segments in their genome. Together with a number of Cas (CRISPR associated) proteins encoded by genes in the vicinity, the resulting molecular assembly is able to search the genome for stretches that "match", inducing a double stranded break that disables the gene. It's incredible that this molecular machine was found by evolution and that there are so many forms of it. It's hard to imagine the Cas9 protein whizzing about the nucleus in brownian motion (it does not hydrolize ATP!), interacting with chromatin/histones and somehow cutting up matches. The biophysics of this process elude me. Anyway, this immune system mechanism can be repurposed, improved and generalized to perform very targeted and cheap gene editing (delete, insert, substitute, invert, ...), gene expression up/down regulation, tagging, etc. This is now actively utilized in animals and plants (in both somatic and germ cells), and also on humans (in somatic cells for treatment of many diseases, or more worryingly in the germ line for making permanent targeted changes to human DNA). The book also discusses gene drives, which allow us to hack evolution itself, e.g. giving us the ability to wipe out the entire population of mosquitos, on which I have very mixed opinions. It also goes into some remaining challenges such as specificity, delivery, etc. In some aspects it is not as comprehensive as I'd like (e.g. how the adaptation part works, or what the limits are). In summary, this is really the beginning of a powerful set of technologies with broad societal implications, as we begin to reprogram both us and the nature around us in hyper-targeted ways. It's refreshing to find a book that does such a good job describing large portions of it without dumbing it down too much, and also doing a good job hinting at some of the associated ethical dilemmas ahead of us.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Adeyemi Ajao

    Last time a book gave me this feeling of awe and amazement was reading Stephen Hawkin's "Brief history of time" 20 years ago. It speaks volumes to Jennifer's ability to distilled the essential on this complex topic that I left feeling I had a good grasp on the subject (albeit with my mind racing over a million questions). A must read. Last time a book gave me this feeling of awe and amazement was reading Stephen Hawkin's "Brief history of time" 20 years ago. It speaks volumes to Jennifer's ability to distilled the essential on this complex topic that I left feeling I had a good grasp on the subject (albeit with my mind racing over a million questions). A must read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    R Nair

    https://science.sciencemag.org/conten... This was the ground breaking paper published by the author of this book along with other researchers that made way for a technology that has alarmed scientists with its potential, to the extent that comparisons with nuclear fission are ubiquitous. Being in an unrelated field of engineering, this scientific article was difficult to fully comprehend over the years since it was published, but having read this book I have found myself able to truly appreciate https://science.sciencemag.org/conten... This was the ground breaking paper published by the author of this book along with other researchers that made way for a technology that has alarmed scientists with its potential, to the extent that comparisons with nuclear fission are ubiquitous. Being in an unrelated field of engineering, this scientific article was difficult to fully comprehend over the years since it was published, but having read this book I have found myself able to truly appreciate the incredible potential associated with this technology and exactly why it has scientists concerned across the globe. If you are reading this review and are even lightly inclined towards science and can tolerate non-fiction, read this book. Public awareness about such topics and what they entail from a scientific perspective as soon as possible is the best way to avoid getting swept-up in the social media galore created by groups claiming things similar to 'evolution is wrong' or 'vaccines cause autism'. As an upside the book is also well written and goes into just enough details that most people should be able to understand it. Compared to this book there are bestselling thrillers that have invoked less of a thrill. Update: October 2020, A well-deserved Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Excellent book, though the technical stuff takes some work, and perhaps some background in biochemistry, to follow completely. The review to read here in Max's, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Why don’t you read his writeup first, while I write up my notes and do my homework? I’ll wait. Biochemist Jennifer Doudna is one of the pioneers in gene-editing research. She and her colleagues discovered the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tool in 2012. The names are just chemical acronyms. You will lea Excellent book, though the technical stuff takes some work, and perhaps some background in biochemistry, to follow completely. The review to read here in Max's, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Why don’t you read his writeup first, while I write up my notes and do my homework? I’ll wait. Biochemist Jennifer Doudna is one of the pioneers in gene-editing research. She and her colleagues discovered the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tool in 2012. The names are just chemical acronyms. You will learn more about them if you read the book, but the take-home here is that this discovery is a MUCH faster and cheaper way to edit (it seems) most DNA genomes of life on our planet. Editing a genome, which might have cost $25,000 using the best previously-available tool, could now be done for $50 or less. And in minutes vs. months! The New York Times called this "one of the most significant discoveries in the history of biology." My guess is, she will be in line for part of a Nobel Prize, not too far down the line. And her work is a fine reminder of the value of basic research, and scientific curiosity. If you (like me) are a visual person, this animation is the place to start your understanding of the topic in about 4 minutes: "Genome Editing with CRISPR-Cas9", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pp17... Most highly recommended! This powerful new tool is still in its infancy, but it has such obvious potential that it has attracted many, many researchers worldwide. Plus commercial interests and patent disputes. So far, the most promising applications of gene editing include possible cures for genetic diseases (such as Huntington’s and many more?), improvements in crops (wheat, rice) and livestock (cattle, chickens). She briefly mentions the potential problems with getting these foods accepted by the general public, given the stormclouds over GMO foods. And the most controversial possible application is "improving" human kids. I am reminded of the ancient words of wisdom, “Be careful what you wish for.” Two good professional reviews: Public Library of Science (PLOS): https://blogs.plos.org/synbio/2018/03... BioNews: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_96144 Doudna’s 2015 TED talk, "How CRISPR lets us edit our DNA": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdBAH... 16 min, 2015. Good talk, but I can’t understand the moderator at the end!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel (Kalanadi)

    A great explanation of CRISPR Cas9 that recounts the research that uncovered it and makes a case for determining how we will responsibly control and wield this powerful tool in future gene editing. The ethical and moral questions are very difficult, and Doudna/Sternberg don't pretend to have solid answers, and instead encourage more discussion and, above all, communication because governments and society as a whole will have to drive policy (and they should do so in an informed way). This was riv A great explanation of CRISPR Cas9 that recounts the research that uncovered it and makes a case for determining how we will responsibly control and wield this powerful tool in future gene editing. The ethical and moral questions are very difficult, and Doudna/Sternberg don't pretend to have solid answers, and instead encourage more discussion and, above all, communication because governments and society as a whole will have to drive policy (and they should do so in an informed way). This was riveting all the way through. Incredibly timely and the sheer speed of this breakthrough is amazing and terrifying - adoption of CRISPR worldwide has pretty much outpaced discussions and policy-making. It's also very heartening to hear about scientists who deeply care about the repercussions of their work and will step out of their comfort zones (and labs) into the arena of policy and politics to get the conversation started. I think this a must-read for people following genetics, but also for anyone interested in how science is truly global... and this is one real technology that in its implications and far-reaching consequences feels like science fiction.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bria

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway! Definitely a subject I'd be interested in but maybe I wouldn't have pursued it otherwise, so thanks Goodreads. Me being me, I found myself turned off by the personal element of the book. It's a good writing technique - it personalizes all the scientific information, which could be otherwise dry or hard to follow for some readers, and lends a natural timeline around which to structure the unfolding of the tale of CRISPR. So, objectively, very well done. Sub I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway! Definitely a subject I'd be interested in but maybe I wouldn't have pursued it otherwise, so thanks Goodreads. Me being me, I found myself turned off by the personal element of the book. It's a good writing technique - it personalizes all the scientific information, which could be otherwise dry or hard to follow for some readers, and lends a natural timeline around which to structure the unfolding of the tale of CRISPR. So, objectively, very well done. Subjectively, I don't particularly want to hear about the story of anyone's life as it relates to and has been changed and affected by this technology. Why I am a curmudgeon like this, I do not know. But I guess the only legitimate complaint I could actually come up with is that the illustrations seemed pretty pointless and not very illuminating. But other than that, I was fooled into thinking I had a pretty decent understanding of how CRISPR gene editing works and the surrounding fields in which it lays, which definitely speaks of clear science writing. And though I sort of fussed and fumed over Doudna's frequent laments of 'oh what have I wrought' throughout the book, she came together at the end with a beautifully measured summary of the relevant issues. The frequent laments served to put her on the side of the hand-wringers and others with concerns about the downsides of the use of this technology; starting from a point of disquiet she walked us through a calm and informed discussion about many many things to take into consideration, addressing common objections people might have with sensible responses - for example, pointing out that all new technologies, such as computers and cell phones, were once prohibitively expensive and thusly reserved for the rich, but this only enabled the technology to improve to the point of being affordable for everyone, rather than resulting in a technology gap between haves and have nots. She successfully exemplified everything she is hoping to have in a conversation about how to actually discuss a complex issue that consists largely of trade-offs. For this, I suppose I will forgive the slight hysteria of the title.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Pretty dry and hyper-technical (or at least poorly explained) re: the details surrounding the CRISPR discovery and how CRISPR works: I learned much, much more from Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “The Gene” re: genetics in general and what all this DNA/RNA stuff does (which then makes understanding CRISPR relatively straightforward). The rest of this book, concerning all the ways CRISPR is (or will be) being used, was much more interesting and worth reading. If you’re interested in CRISPR but don’t want t Pretty dry and hyper-technical (or at least poorly explained) re: the details surrounding the CRISPR discovery and how CRISPR works: I learned much, much more from Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “The Gene” re: genetics in general and what all this DNA/RNA stuff does (which then makes understanding CRISPR relatively straightforward). The rest of this book, concerning all the ways CRISPR is (or will be) being used, was much more interesting and worth reading. If you’re interested in CRISPR but don’t want to get bogged down in the technical details, I would recommend just doing some googling for stories on CRISPR by “The Atlantic” and then skipping to section two of this book after you understand the CRISPR mechanism. Also, the lawsuit concerning the proper patent holder for CRISPR hangs heavy over Section 1 - it’s painfully obvious the author is using those pages as part of her argument (FWIW - as a lawyer with a strong interest in genetics and a thorough understanding of CRISPR and the patent dispute, I think (and hope!) Jennifer should win).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    I found this book equally informative and annoying. So much GREAT information. Crispr is nothing short of miraculous. Have you ever studied viruses or plasmids and been amazed at how a virus knows how to cut into a gene sequence and take over a cell and eventually tons of cells inside an entire organisms? This is that on a much more intense scale. Absolutely love this technology! The writing not was as great as I had hoped. I liked to be wowed without having to sift through bragging or what seem I found this book equally informative and annoying. So much GREAT information. Crispr is nothing short of miraculous. Have you ever studied viruses or plasmids and been amazed at how a virus knows how to cut into a gene sequence and take over a cell and eventually tons of cells inside an entire organisms? This is that on a much more intense scale. Absolutely love this technology! The writing not was as great as I had hoped. I liked to be wowed without having to sift through bragging or what seem to be very unimpressive philosophical discussions. Even with those limitations, this book is a solid 5 star book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rosann

    I really wanted to love this book... but I didn't. I couldn't help but thinking the whole time I spent reading it that it seemed an awful lot like reading "The Double Helix" by James Watson, who only gave passing mention to the contributions of Rosalind Franklin - whose work without which he and Crick would not have "discovered" that DNA is in a double helix form. Doudna does mention the work of others, but it's clear she considers it her discovery. While I appreciated her attempting to discuss I really wanted to love this book... but I didn't. I couldn't help but thinking the whole time I spent reading it that it seemed an awful lot like reading "The Double Helix" by James Watson, who only gave passing mention to the contributions of Rosalind Franklin - whose work without which he and Crick would not have "discovered" that DNA is in a double helix form. Doudna does mention the work of others, but it's clear she considers it her discovery. While I appreciated her attempting to discuss the morality of gene editing in it's various forms (everything from basic discovery life science to somatic cells to germline cells), her "regrets" fell a little flat to me. Working in a lab that uses CRISPR, I was also dismayed by the lack of recognition of the low success rate of doing anything other than disabling genes... it is not as easy and straight forward as she makes it sound. If you're looking for a read about the background and (biased) discovery of CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, this will do. Anything more and I would look elsewhere.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Jennifer Doudna didnt set out with the intent to create something so world changing when she became a biochemist. In fact, genetics wasnt even on her radar. Instead she was interested in bacteria and viruses. It was through her research on viruses that she accidentally found herself in this entirely different scientific arena. From there CRISPR was born, and the revolution of gene editing has been spreading its veins into just about every field of research and medicine. I loved this book because Jennifer Doudna didnt set out with the intent to create something so world changing when she became a biochemist. In fact, genetics wasnt even on her radar. Instead she was interested in bacteria and viruses. It was through her research on viruses that she accidentally found herself in this entirely different scientific arena. From there CRISPR was born, and the revolution of gene editing has been spreading its veins into just about every field of research and medicine. I loved this book because it gives a pretty comprehensive background on cell biology and biochemistry without feeling like a university lecture. Interspersed between the scientific rundowns are bits of commentary and history from doudna. The entire first part of the book talks about the different mechanisms that were studied for gene editing before CRISPR reigned king. The middle focuses on CRISPR itself and the multitude of variois applications in which it can be applied. Along with more play by play of how Doudna navigated the new excitement and notoriety her discovery is getting, she also comments about her concerns over policy and regulation. The last part of the book jumps into the policy and regulation with more force and consternation. Finally getting into the ethics surrounding the use of gene editing technology and the dystopian future it might bring. How do you control such powerful technology? How do you make sure it isn't being taken advantage of for personal gain and fame? Just a week after i finished reading this, a Chinese man reported having produced the first ever CRISPR gene-edited babies (link below to article) This is a far different scenario than the "designer babies" talked of with normal IVF (where an embryos DNA is analyzed pre-implantation and the embryos that fit the genetic markers selected for most closely are chose to be inserted during the procedure - i.e. no actual genetic changes are physically made) Obviously, getting to the point where gene editing on embryos can happen has always been considered the end game of this research. Reading Doudna's book will put into perspective how far off we really are to being able to do this without massive consequences. In the later chapters she talks about the "gene gap" where we may essentially create a whole new marginalized group of people. The one who can afford to do gene editing are the "haves" and everyone else are the "have nots". This poses as a dangerously high possibility in our society with an ever widing income disparity. The rogue scientist (who didn't even publish his work, rather presented his findings on slides via youtube...smh) timed his big reveal to happem just before the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing. I was invited to watch remotely since it was happening across the world in Hong Kong, and from what I gathered of the people there was an overall sense of anger, distress, and bewilderment. It's because of this recent mishap that this book should be more widely acknowledged and understood. Outside the scientific community, i can bet many people are still confused about what the crispr-cas9 system does. However, at some point in our near future this system is going to become one of the most influential technologies of our time, whether or not we are ready for it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Ray

    A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution, Jennifer A. Doudna, Samuel H. Sternberg, 2017, 281pp. (246pp. text + endmatter), ISBN 9780544716940, Dewey 576.5072, Library-of-Congress QH440 The authors are biochemists. Viruses can splice new genetic information into the DNA of host cells. p. 16. Eight percent of the human genome is viral. p. 19. Streptococcus thermophilus makes milk into yogurt or cheese. Streptococcus pyogenes causes .5 million human deaths annu A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution, Jennifer A. Doudna, Samuel H. Sternberg, 2017, 281pp. (246pp. text + endmatter), ISBN 9780544716940, Dewey 576.5072, Library-of-Congress QH440 The authors are biochemists. Viruses can splice new genetic information into the DNA of host cells. p. 16. Eight percent of the human genome is viral. p. 19. Streptococcus thermophilus makes milk into yogurt or cheese. Streptococcus pyogenes causes .5 million human deaths annually. It causes strep throat, scarlet fever, toxic shock syndrome, and necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria). The two species of bacteria contain "all the same genes." pp. 72-73. Bacteriophages--bacteria-destroying viruses--are the most prevalent life forms on Earth. They outnumber bacteria 10-to-1. Every day, 40% of all ocean bacteria are destroyed by phages. p. 48. Bacterial DNA contains "Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats" (CRISPR): between the repeated palindromes are snippets of DNA the bacteria have absorbed from viruses. The bacteria use these to match with and recognize attacking viral DNA; then to cut and destroy the attacking viral DNA. CRISPR is part of the bacterium's immune system. pp. 43-59. The bacteria's DNA is a template to make 2 kinds of RNA, and to make various enzymes. The RNA identifies and cuts the attacking viral DNA; the enzymes complete the destruction. pp. 62-81. By modifying the swatch of DNA it matches, the CRISPR RNA, with its "tracrRNA," can be used to snip out /any/ bit of DNA. Not just viral DNA. The technique can work for human DNA too. pp. 81ff. The author and her colleagues submitted their paper suggesting this to /Science/, June 8, 2012. It was published 20 days later and changed the field. p. 85. "But should we?" pp. 113-246. The author is oddly worrisome about the prospect that parents may interfere with nature to the extent of preventing their unborn child from being born with a congenital defect. Yet she's oddly OK with the idea of using the techniques to edit genes to cause the extinction of mosquitoes (and all the life forms that depend on them). She feels that /she/ should have a say in how people are permitted to use these techniques. In any case, Pandora's box is open. Crops, domestic animals, wild animals, and humans are being modified using the techniques. The author's description of the pace of advance makes this, her 2017 book, seem already dated in 2019.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tom Quinn

    I am very picky with what I bring on airplanes. As precious overhead storage space is never guaranteed, I whittle down my carryon to the barest of underseat essentials. Space gets tight, quarters get cramped, tempers get short, and so my reading material must pack a mega payload of enjoyment to qualify as flightworthy. Nonfiction is my go-to, especially readable contemporary nonfiction in which the narrator takes an active role in the story. It needs to be dense enough that I feel I'm learning so I am very picky with what I bring on airplanes. As precious overhead storage space is never guaranteed, I whittle down my carryon to the barest of underseat essentials. Space gets tight, quarters get cramped, tempers get short, and so my reading material must pack a mega payload of enjoyment to qualify as flightworthy. Nonfiction is my go-to, especially readable contemporary nonfiction in which the narrator takes an active role in the story. It needs to be dense enough that I feel I'm learning something new, and also informal enough to set down and pick up in a moment, should my two-year-old need his nose blown or his younger sister need a diaper change mid-flight. One side effect of this compulsion is the permanent association between place and trivia that is burned into my mind. So, for example, whenever I land in Denver I am flooded with factoids about battle-ready fabric courtesy of Mary Roach's Grunt . Chicago's Midway brings back Dr. Mutter's Marvels . Thanks to this delightful book, O'hare will be "the DNA airport." (My favorite thing to read on my rare childless flights is "The Classics" because I know I am going to be stuck in one place and one position for several hours at a time, so it's a good opportunity to chip away at those quote-unquote important works.) A Crack in Creation's content is exciting and its tone is energetic. The science of genetic research has grown by leaps and bounds in recent decades, and this book helps covey the dizzying speed of progress. In short, the authors make learning fun! It's also a great peek into the subject of Bioethics and begins to raise questions about the philosophical implications of unchecked technology use, even if intended for improvements.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    If you haven’t heard of CRISPR before, chances are you’ll be hearing of it again pretty soon. It’s starting to be used in clinical trials to edit the genes of human embryos, and it’s already being used in countless research projects. It’s an amazing tool which could completely revolutionise gene editing, allowing very precise changes to be made with very little unintended impact. Doudna is one of the people who has been involved in developing CRISPR and recognising its potential, and her book co If you haven’t heard of CRISPR before, chances are you’ll be hearing of it again pretty soon. It’s starting to be used in clinical trials to edit the genes of human embryos, and it’s already being used in countless research projects. It’s an amazing tool which could completely revolutionise gene editing, allowing very precise changes to be made with very little unintended impact. Doudna is one of the people who has been involved in developing CRISPR and recognising its potential, and her book covers exactly how it works and the potential it has — and some of the philosophical questions around how we’re going to use it. The explanations of how CRISPR works are perfect: clear and precise, along with diagrams which help elucidate the processes described. Even if you already know a little about CRISPR, this account will probably help you understand just how it works and why it’s so revolutionary. As far as the ethics/philosophy goes, Doudna says nothing particularly revolutionary. (It’s very much framed as her book, despite Sternberg’s involvement.) What struck me especially was her conviction that this is a decision that has to be made by people in general, not just scientists — it’s something I agree with very much, and why I have a science blog of my own. An important read, I think — even if you’re not hugely into science/gene editing. Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kerry Oliver

    The biology of CRISPR/CAS in book are well done, but the ethics of its use less so -both in terms of clarity and thoughtfulness (not surprising given authors' background), but also some very wishful thinking (including little consideration of the inevitability of the race to the bottom (due market forces and large differences in regulation among countries). nonetheless, cat is out of bag, so the limits of the technology will ultimately decide where this goes. The biology of CRISPR/CAS in book are well done, but the ethics of its use less so -both in terms of clarity and thoughtfulness (not surprising given authors' background), but also some very wishful thinking (including little consideration of the inevitability of the race to the bottom (due market forces and large differences in regulation among countries). nonetheless, cat is out of bag, so the limits of the technology will ultimately decide where this goes.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This is simply amazing research and I am in awe of Doudna. The book is really sciency, which is good, but I was less interested in the play by play than in the possibilities (no, I am not a scientist). Nevertheless, a great read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bookphile

    If I have one big takeaway from this book, it's this: there needs to be a LOT more interaction between scientists and sociologists. While I appreciated and was fascinated by the science detailed in this book, I was frankly incredulous about Doudna's reaction to the effects CRISPR have wrought in the world because I do not see how anyone could have failed to see them coming. Her obliviousness (honestly, I don't know what else to call it) lends credence to the idea that scientists are disconnected If I have one big takeaway from this book, it's this: there needs to be a LOT more interaction between scientists and sociologists. While I appreciated and was fascinated by the science detailed in this book, I was frankly incredulous about Doudna's reaction to the effects CRISPR have wrought in the world because I do not see how anyone could have failed to see them coming. Her obliviousness (honestly, I don't know what else to call it) lends credence to the idea that scientists are disconnected from the world because they spend all their time holed up in their labs conducting experiments. Now, I want to say a couple of things before I get deeper into what I found so disturbing about this book. I tend to be something of an idealist myself, so my cynical view of Doudna's idealism took me aback. I'm also a huge advocate for science and am dismayed by the growing ignorance of science I see manifesting in the U.S. My argument is not that people shouldn't try to make the world a better place, or they shouldn't be focused on finding ways of improving the human condition, or that science is evil. I do not think the importance of science can be overstated. However, I have serious concerns about unfettered science. Didn't humans' experiences with the nuclear arms race and the fundamental ways in which that has changed our world teach us a lesson we should not have forgotten? When science is divorced from sociology and politics, chaos ensues. The idea of editing the human germline in order to prevent future suffering is laudable. I truly believe that. There are a lot of horrifying diseases that affect humans in unthinkable ways, and I am all for finding better treatments if not cures for these diseases. However, humans never seem to learn that when they mess with nature, the results are not usually favorable to us. You need look only at climate change, invasive species, and the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to see abundant evidence of this. Editing the germline might sound like a great idea, but the problem is we have no way of knowing what effects that editing might have a few generations down the line. What if in trying to eradicate known diseases, we create a whole new raft of even more powerful, even more horrifying, diseases? I'm not saying scientists shouldn't work to find solutions to these problems. What I am saying is that there needs to be a lot of thought given to these things. Doudna points out throughout the book that scientists need to think about not whether they can do something, but whether they should, yet she seems to reach the same conclusion every time: well, there could be bad consequences, but we should. I'm not comfortable with that mindset. I also think Doudna fails to look at the larger picture in many cases. She touts GMOs, but using the argument that they're safe for human consumption. Okay, but what about the problem of mega corporations patenting the genes for these GMO plants? What about the plight of farmers who are sued by these corporations when seeds from said plants drift into their fields? What about the rise of super weeds, which have developed resistance to the pesticides GMO seeds were engineered to resist? What about how these genetically engineered plants affect the larger ecosystem? Doudna talks about unintended consequences, but in a very shallow way. When humans play around with genes, we're fundamentally changing nature in ways nature might not be prepared for, and it only stands to reason that we're going to interfere with evolution in other unforeseen ways, as we did by bringing non-native plants to many areas only to find those plants choking out native vegetation. Human don't tend to tread lightly on our delicate planet; instead, we have a habit of trouncing all over it. I was very put off by her lack of respect for the sanctity of any form of life other than human life. I think what bothered me most of all, though, was that Doudna fails to think about the social implications of gene editing in a deep way. Yes, she does address concerns about inequality, but to me it sounded like her ultimate conclusion was, "Well, but humans are good, so we won't do that." Humans may be good for the most part, but there are plenty of bad humans, and those humans are going to have no compunction about exploiting technological advances to their own favor. The fact that she didn't even stop to think that terrorists might look to exploit gene editing left me floored. How could she not have foreseen that? Those who seeks to destroy will always look for ways to weaponize new technological advances, and I was kind of appalled that Doudna didn't anticipate that. I'm also skeptical of her views about how gene editing may further the field of medicine. There's no doubt a good number of people would benefit from these technologies, but she glosses over who stands to benefit from them. She does point out the possibility of further societal stratification based on genes, but I don't think she gives that point enough weight. One look at the current state of health care in America will tell you everything you need to know about who will ultimately benefit from gene editing, and it's not going to be the poorest of the poor. We live in a society where many of our fellow citizens can't access even the most basic health care services, and I frankly think she's willfully ignoring this when she touts the marvels of gene editing. If some members of society can't even afford to seek medical care when they have the flu, in what world does she think they're going to benefit from gene editing? Lastly, I also think she glides right over questions of "designer" babies. Of course this technology will be developed. We already live in a world where people abandon or kill babies who don't have "desirable" traits, so how would she think gene editing would change this? As with health care, once this technology becomes a reality, the rich will benefit the most. The thought of a world where the richest have many genetic benefits, both from a health perspective and from the perspective of their possessing extraordinary intelligence or strength or whatever ought to keep Doudna up at night. There's a reason why science fiction writers tend to sound the alarm when it comes to technological developments, and it isn't because ours is a world where everyone benefits equally from technological advances. Honestly, the book kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I can see how when scientists are caught up in their research, they don't see the larger picture of how their actions will affect others. After all, scientists are human, and humans in general are bad at that. I will give credit where it's due and say I think it's laudable that Doudna wants the public to have better access to information, that she thinks scientists need to engage with the public more, and that she thinks everyone should have a stake in deciding how technology should be applied, not just those who develop it, but the cynical side of me says it's too little too late. Pandora's box has been opened. Now more than ever, science needs more oversight, and scientific ethics need to be given far more weight than they have been. I'm not advocating for holding back progress, but I firmly believe that we need loud, informed voices helping to guide that progress, for the good of all.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Márcio

    I mostly enjoyed the first part of the book, where Jennifer Douda tells us about the history of genetics and genes, DNA, RNA, and all the previous attempts by a bunch of scientists in the second part of the last century to develop gene-editing technologies or gene therapies, the ones that resulted in the discovery of a new gene-editing process by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna's teams working together, and which was named CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repe I mostly enjoyed the first part of the book, where Jennifer Douda tells us about the history of genetics and genes, DNA, RNA, and all the previous attempts by a bunch of scientists in the second part of the last century to develop gene-editing technologies or gene therapies, the ones that resulted in the discovery of a new gene-editing process by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna's teams working together, and which was named CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), easier and inexpensive when compared to previous technologies of gene-editing and/or diagnostic tool. The second part of the book was mostly directed in bringing light to the benefits that CRISPR can bring to humanity, but also shedding light on the harms of its misuse. Doudna tries to explain the many uses that are being thought in relation to the use of CRISPR in fauna and flora, just like GMO already does but shows the red light when it comes to germline human usages of the technology, which must come with a vast worldwide public discussion of the benefits and perils of it, even if she admits that some countries with lesser legal and ethical restrictions on the theme of gene-editing might not give much room to discuss whatever may come ahead. Though CRISP is easy and cheap technology, developing treatments and therapies are not cheap or easy, and that might trigger more profound differences in relation to human beings, those who can access it and those who don't. Not to mention its use to enhance some personal characteristics, as a human makeup technology that may start differing one being from another. I understand Doudna worries that CRISPR may be seen as a new GMO, a technology that received bad reception worldwide. She tries to shed light on the benefits of GMOs and I can understand them pretty easily, not to mention that in a world that is already facing climate changes on account of the threaten mankind has been forcing on the planet since the industrial revolution, and with a population that is becoming unbearable to feed, genetically modified organisms can be helpful. Her point of view, though, lacks the very element that she is working to bring to CRISPR technology, that is, public discussion. It might have happened in the United States, though I doubt it. In many countries all around the world, the GMO industries just arrived and forced patent laws that were not fit to these countries, the TRIPS agreement was one of them, more imposed by the financial perspectives of European and North American countries than beneficial to most of the countries around the world. And it is patent claims that are now guiding the definition of who will most profit from CRISPR.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ray LaManna

    This book will tell you everything you will ever need to know about CRISPR, the revolutionary new, and controversial, gene-editing tool. Doudna give a good history and background of the science leading up to her team's discoveries...BUT I must warn you that you need to know something about microbiology to understand this process. Without it, you're pretty much lost. The other issue I have with this book is that Doudna does not delve very deeply into the ethical implications of editing our DNA... This book will tell you everything you will ever need to know about CRISPR, the revolutionary new, and controversial, gene-editing tool. Doudna give a good history and background of the science leading up to her team's discoveries...BUT I must warn you that you need to know something about microbiology to understand this process. Without it, you're pretty much lost. The other issue I have with this book is that Doudna does not delve very deeply into the ethical implications of editing our DNA...much less the moral challenges. As a matter of fact, she pretty much says almost nothing any religious objections to this process, except to say that many in the Judeo-Christian tradition might have a problem with the entire issue-duh!! So as a clear history (esp. in Part I) the book is great and will teach you a lot if you give it a close reading. But regarding the future, we need much more ethical and moral investigation of this process which could eventually change the very makeup of all human life.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dillon

    I want to say this book is a must-read. It is really, really good. The scientific explanations are concise and distill what I'm sure are really complex processes into something digestible - and does a much better job of this than Siddhartha Mukherjee's book, in my opinion. The technology of gene editing is going to have some serious ramifications in perhaps the near future. Jennifer Doudna gives a future with gene-editing a thoughtful treatment and encourages us all to understand and be a part o I want to say this book is a must-read. It is really, really good. The scientific explanations are concise and distill what I'm sure are really complex processes into something digestible - and does a much better job of this than Siddhartha Mukherjee's book, in my opinion. The technology of gene editing is going to have some serious ramifications in perhaps the near future. Jennifer Doudna gives a future with gene-editing a thoughtful treatment and encourages us all to understand and be a part of the discussion, while trying a really exciting story of the technology's discovery and development to date.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Will Simpson

    From studying how bacteria fight off viral infections to development of the Life (not personal but humanity) changing technologies of CRISPR/Cas9. This book a great, mostly understandable primer on the development and technologies used. Understandable even for a 61 year old who has no microbiology background at all. My experience of this book comes in 3 parts. 1. In the first part, I learned some about microbiology. Exciting to see advances, I found myself caught up in the excitement. Who knew th From studying how bacteria fight off viral infections to development of the Life (not personal but humanity) changing technologies of CRISPR/Cas9. This book a great, mostly understandable primer on the development and technologies used. Understandable even for a 61 year old who has no microbiology background at all. My experience of this book comes in 3 parts. 1. In the first part, I learned some about microbiology. Exciting to see advances, I found myself caught up in the excitement. Who knew that bacteria were plagued by viruses and that they have coevolved in a ongoing battle of attacks and defense. Learned how this process can be used for gene-editing. Learned about somatic cell editing and germline cell editing and the implications of this lead to the second phase of the book. 2. The authors painted a scary picture of the whole gene editing field. I almost gave up as it seemed as though they were so focused on what could go wrong. Seemed to promote scare tactics to try and put CRISPR back in the proverbial box. 3. Redemption! The third part of the book is a reasoned and measured dialogue of pros and cons of the ethics of germ line and somatic gene editing. I zoomed through this section in a single session. So excited. This section confirmed my biases. I'm biased towards the moral imperative to alleviate the suffering of those with genetic diseases when possible. This technology helps make this a possibility. Random notions with roots in the reading. * I hope that CRISPR/Cas9 technologies and separate themselves form the false and misleading current public perception of GMO's. * If I was to have a genetic disease like ALS, of course I'd opt for any potential. Why wouldn't I want the same for everyone else in the same position? * This is another issue which Frances Collins, Director of the NIH, is on the wrong side. * This can be used to up regulate and down regulate various proteins much like a "gene-expression controller" or like a dimmer switch adjusting lighting levels. * "Someday we may consider it unethical not to use germline editing to alleviate human suffering." * Thank you Jennifer and Samuel for coming out of the lab and coming into the fire of public policy and education. Thanks for being the adults in the room. Personal aside. Science, is polarizing. There are those that understand and those that don't. Sure scientists alone can't make decisions in a vacuum. They need the support of people with other backgrounds and experiences who understand the science. Those that don't understand don't have a vote. This is not condemnation but is a exhortation to become knowledgable. Unfortunately our current societal makeup is such that "everyone is their own expert". This is holding us back.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    4.5 A Crack in Creation should be on your to read list. If any topic is going to be the corner stone of future relevance, this is it and can have significant impacts. CRISPR will be the name that will resonate from our generation in the field of medicine and echo through the passage of time. This new technology will change us and everything that has crippled the human species since of humble beginnings. There will be arguments for the good and bad, but ultimately it is the good that will serve th 4.5 A Crack in Creation should be on your to read list. If any topic is going to be the corner stone of future relevance, this is it and can have significant impacts. CRISPR will be the name that will resonate from our generation in the field of medicine and echo through the passage of time. This new technology will change us and everything that has crippled the human species since of humble beginnings. There will be arguments for the good and bad, but ultimately it is the good that will serve this new technology. A Crack in Creation by Jennifer Doudna is an interesting book and covers so much ground considering the amount of pages. I was dubious that the book could capture the topic over such a short book, but my doubts were shaken very early on. The book starts with the creation of the research and this is the most interesting section. Jennifer may cast some of the doubt in the later chapters, let's not make any assumptions, people will use this for greed and others for power, but this will cure genetic mutations. The later half of the book is about the creator questioning what she has created and is the fear that everybody will share, but like any good creation, there is bad. If you have ever seen the brilliant Gattaca, you'll have an idea of where this technology can take us. This technology also has the ability to engineer our bodies for space travel, something that was a major hurdle when travelling in outer space. I know there are people out there that will question why we would create something so life altering, but remember there must be good and evil. That is the age old story. Why the 4.5? The book is an eye opener and for the average reader be warned, the first 100 pages are full on about the creation of the technology. I have my own thoughts, but I won't bore with them. The biggest argument I have for anyone that see's this as the ultimate interference in evolution, remember that we have extended our lives with medicine and antibiotics so if you have issues with CRISPR technology, we have already passed the line a long time ago.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hank

    The first third is some heavy, fantastic science (as if science could be anything else). The second third is kind of an autobiography which read quickly and was fairly engaging. The last third was policy/philosophy discussion which was also well done if a bit overly-done. Very enjoyable book. I now know 1000 times more about CRISPR (Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) and what it does which was mostly the goal. I also know more about Doudna which is also great and many of t The first third is some heavy, fantastic science (as if science could be anything else). The second third is kind of an autobiography which read quickly and was fairly engaging. The last third was policy/philosophy discussion which was also well done if a bit overly-done. Very enjoyable book. I now know 1000 times more about CRISPR (Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) and what it does which was mostly the goal. I also know more about Doudna which is also great and many of the dangers, which I could already guess. The few nits...too much policy discussion, it ended up a bit repetitive and the illustrations scattered throughout the book were not very illustrative. The best was the picture of two mice one male one female with arrows pointing to an egg, a blob representing CRISPR and then an arrow pointing to another mouse labeled gene edited mouse. Pretty sure I got that from the text. CRISPR is here, if you want to know more about it before you need to use it, this book is a great start.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mary & Tom

    If you want to learn about the future of gene therapy and gene editing, read this book. It was published in 2016, and things are moving quickly in this field, but the basics, the problems, and ethical concerns are addressed here. Written by leaders in the field Dr. Doudna and Dr. Sternberg, it provides clear and concise explanations. I did need to go back and refresh what I may have learned and forgotten about bacteria or I may just have been learning about the developments that have taken place If you want to learn about the future of gene therapy and gene editing, read this book. It was published in 2016, and things are moving quickly in this field, but the basics, the problems, and ethical concerns are addressed here. Written by leaders in the field Dr. Doudna and Dr. Sternberg, it provides clear and concise explanations. I did need to go back and refresh what I may have learned and forgotten about bacteria or I may just have been learning about the developments that have taken place in the field since my college biology days. I read this hoping for some information and insight as to how close scientists are to finding the cure for Cystic Fibrosis. It seems to me that the fix for children not yet born will come much soon than for those living with this fatal systemic disease. But we can hope. Science is amazing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    A Crack in Creation combines two distinct, but related, books. The first, a first cousin to scientific mysteries like The Double Helix and Voyage to the Great Attractor, tracks the unfolding path to the CRISPR gene-editing technology that's in the process of changing the world as I type this sentence. That's probably not hyperbole. The pace of discovery of new applications of this stunningly powerful tool surpasses any technological change I've followed, including the exponential explosion of di A Crack in Creation combines two distinct, but related, books. The first, a first cousin to scientific mysteries like The Double Helix and Voyage to the Great Attractor, tracks the unfolding path to the CRISPR gene-editing technology that's in the process of changing the world as I type this sentence. That's probably not hyperbole. The pace of discovery of new applications of this stunningly powerful tool surpasses any technological change I've followed, including the exponential explosion of digital technology. CRISPR provides flawed humanity with the power to create new crops with unquestionably positive impacts on health and environment, to eliminate some genetically based diseases and conditions (sickle cell, some forms of muscular dystrophy), and, much more ambiguously, to breed miniature pig pets and maybe unicorns. And the technology is simple enough that it can be carried out by a reasonably sharp high school science student. Doudna, who has as much (I'd say more) claim as anyone to being the "discoverer," writing with collaborator Sam Sternberg, provides a well-written, easily understandable tour of the sequence of discoveries and experiments that led to CRISPR. She credits the multiple teams whose research contributed to the development and avoids getting bogged down in what's become a somewhat nasty legal struggle over who has the rights to the patents that make use of CRISPR. You'll emerge from the first half of the book with a clear understanding of what CRISPR is, the wonderful science that it taps into, and the process of scientific evolution today. The second half of the book consists of Doudna's meditations on the complicated ethical and political issues connected with the uses, real and potential, of CRISPR applications. I admire her willingness to confront the complexities directly, and she never simplifies her position, which, as she acknowledges, has changed as she's listened to various takeholders, including patient advocators, bioethicists, and scientists from around the world. She doesn't provide answers, though she makes what I found a compelling case for accepting genetically altered foods (CRISPR isn't a GMO technology in the sense the term has usually been employed, and her explanation altered my feelings about GMOs significantly). Essentially, she's an informed citizen with access to some technical knowledge that she's willing, driven in fact, to share. Her intention was to jump start a broad conversation on the issues and A Crack in Creation does that well. Highly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tessa

    ​I was a bit disappointed by this book. The subject matter is interesting, but I felt that the interesting details of the science were often absent- sections would say "an experiment found that" without any details of how the experiment was designed, or why it had been designed a certain way. The section on the history of gene editing felt more like a list of scientists than a recounting of additive knowledge; I would have preferred the latter. I did find it very interesting that we knew that dou ​I was a bit disappointed by this book. The subject matter is interesting, but I felt that the interesting details of the science were often absent- sections would say "an experiment found that" without any details of how the experiment was designed, or why it had been designed a certain way. The section on the history of gene editing felt more like a list of scientists than a recounting of additive knowledge; I would have preferred the latter. I did find it very interesting that we knew that double stranded breaks can induce homologous recombination before (1983) we developed ZFNs. The second part also included interesting tidbits- what we use different viral vectors for, the concept of "saviour siblings" birthed by IVF to provide for another child, CCR5 therapies to make us resistant to HIV. Overall, I wasn't the target audience for this book (I already knew how CRISPR worked). That said, I would have expected more engaging writing from Doudna sand Sternberg, who have written some of my favourite papers in the field

  30. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    Mostly from the author's personally-involved-lab-science perspective, focused history of gene editing, specific tech capabilities with CRISPR, and societal implications of a tool this accurate and cheap. Author is making a serious effort to speak publicly beyond the scientific community about potential rules and implications, in general she sees plant/animal modifications as obvious (wheat, pork - already fully/exclusively domesticated species), is worried about germline / gene drive changes to Mostly from the author's personally-involved-lab-science perspective, focused history of gene editing, specific tech capabilities with CRISPR, and societal implications of a tool this accurate and cheap. Author is making a serious effort to speak publicly beyond the scientific community about potential rules and implications, in general she sees plant/animal modifications as obvious (wheat, pork - already fully/exclusively domesticated species), is worried about germline / gene drive changes to wild populations (mosquitoes, say), and thinks we need an Asilomar-like global ban on human germline modifications until we know more.

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