Posts Tagged ‘Emmanuelle Charpentier’

Two Women Revolutionize Science, Life, And Hope

October 8, 2020

This Year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry Honors an Immense Revolution in All Fields of Humanity, Including Aging, And Thus Of Course, Wisdom All Over…

For the longest time, women were treated as mental retards generally incapable of creative thinking. There is actually no reason to believe women are less capable, they were just oppressed. The oppression of women did not just discard half of humanity: by making women stupid, it guaranteed stupid children in the next generation. Sexist countries are stupid countries. Wisdom is not just deep, it can be brutal…

Several women shine as creators of the greatest ideas in the history of civilization: Aspasia, Pericles’ second wife, defined the Open Society and gave him all his good ideas. Queen Bathilde of the Franks outlawed slavery.., 13 centuries ago (just when Islam enshrined sexism!).

Gabrielle-Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet was arguably a more important physicist than roughly any man, including Newton. Not only did she discover infra red radiation, but she discovered energy (Newton had confused momentum, the impetus of Buridan, with energy; energy is the integral relative to speed of momentum… Émilie du Châtelet had translated Newton in French; she was also a top philosopher.

Then of course there is DNA. Two guys got the Nobel for it, one of them a racist (Watson). A woman, Rosalyn Franklin, had done all the hard work they used, taking the X rays… And died from it (X ray induced leukemia)….

Notice I didn’t even mention Marie Curie, who is the only person who got scientific Nobels in two different scientific fields… Although stellar, there are bigger stars. Her daughter Irene also a Nobel in chemistry, for the discovery of man-made elements, and went on to discover nuclear fission in 1937 (the 1944 Nobel for that was weirdly given in 1945, to Otto Hahn, a dishonest German Nazi who was just the correspondent Irene had succeeded to instruct… Sweden can be strange… See the Assange story for further strangeness of the same type…)

With Crispr, two XX scientists turned a curiosity into an invention that will transform the human race into a much better race (hahaha). The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 was awarded jointly to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna “for the development of a method for genome editing.”

At the time, they were working at the University of California, Berkeley (Doudna is still there, Charpentier is research director at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin). Oct. 7, 2020

Emmanuelle Charpentier, left, and Jennifer Doudna may have made the most important biological advance since the discovery of the structure of DNA.
Emmanuelle Charpentier, left, and Jennifer Doudna may have made the most important biological advance since the discovery of the structure of DNA.Credit…Miguel Riopa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day in Hawai’i to find that her dad had left a paperback titled “The Double Helix” on her bed. She thought it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama, filled with colorful characters, about ambition and competition in the pursuit of nature’s wonders. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.

She would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, later told her was the most important biological advance since he and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA (Watson and Crick were helped by a lot of other people). She worked with a brilliant Parisian biologist named Emmanuelle Charpentier to turn a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human species (and probably its pets): an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. They were helped by another woman who was a professor at UC Berkeley in another domain. Known as Crispr, the new method ushered in a new universe of medical miracles, moral questions, and an alluring future (who wants to decay and die of old age? Not me).

For this accomplishment, on Wednesday they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It is a recognition, not just of those two, but also that the development of Crispr will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. And that biology is chemistry (I think it’s more: Quantum Physics).

The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, the computer and the internet. All of these use electrons flowing as if in ducts. It’s all classical physics in a sense, not fundamentally different from computing with water flowing in canals.

Now we are entering a Quantum-Life-science era. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study the code of life, and those who study Quantum coding. Both will be connected, because life, including DNA, is not just classical, but also Quantum. It will be a revolution that will someday allow us to cure diseases, fend off the pandemics of viruses and other microbes all excited by a warming planet, and (if we decide it’s wise) to design humans with the genetic features or modifications we deem superior (wisdom, philosophy will have to grow in proportion).

Generic engineering will also allow us to become multi-centenarians, as some whales are, and gather the wisdom brought by advanced years, not to say centuries.

When one will be able to live twenty centuries, one will not risk, as the Greek heroes did, after only twenty years alive, that the only way to reach immortality was to die in the glory of going out, destroying another country…

As Joe Biden did.

Except there was no glory in what he did, killing millions on the cheap, and not living up to his responsibilities.

Patrice Ayme

IMMORAL & UNSCIENTIFIC, To Crisp CRISPR

July 24, 2017

Abstract: We can edit genetics now. Should we? Of course. It’s the moral thing to do. First, because it’s moral to try to know what we don’t know, even when, and especially when, it’s a great jump in the unknown (I will explain why in a follow-up essay). Second, because, by pushing the CRISPR technology, we can save billions of hours of quality of life for millions of human beings, very soon.

***

In 2012, a collaboration between  Jennifer Doudna (from Hawai’i; then a professor at UC Berkeley) and  Emmanuelle Charpentier (a French professor from Paris working all over Europe) brought a huge invention. The two collaborating professors harnessed CRISPR into a method to edit DNA at will. Doudna learned first from CRISPR thanks to another female professor at Berkeley.

(Doudna wrote an excellent book on this “A Crack In Creation”, which I highly recommend; the title itself has a triple meaning.)

CRISPR is the abbreviation of: Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. They are segments of prokaryotic DNA containing short, repetitive base sequences. These play a key role in a bacterial defence system: bacteria get attacked by viruses, bacteriophages. RNA harboring the spacer sequence helps Cas proteins recognize and cut the enemy (exogenous DNA) in two. Other RNA-guided Cas proteins cut enemy RNA.

Several elements intervene in CRISPR: tracing with RNA attached to a pair of scissors, adding (or not!) what DNA piece one wants, & then automatic repair DNA…

Gene editing proceeds by attaching a DNA-breaking natural bacterial defense against virus to a particular region of the DNA, thanks to a recognizing RNA. Then whatever one wants to splice is brought in by another RNA. DNA. 

The potential is to create species at will. Or to remove diseases at will. Let’s hasten to say, that the process can, and has, happened spontaneously in the wild (so to speak). Some patients have had grave genetic diseases they were affected by, disappear, from the cutting effect appearing on its own in one stem cell’s DNA. (If that stem cell had enough descendants to compensate for the deleterious effects of others, wrong-DNA cells, a cure can be achieved!)

Some “bioethicists” are all alarmed by gene editing, and use big words, about the potential damage to life for frivolous pursuits.

Technically, CRISPR alarmists are panicking too early: first, and most importantly, the phenotype does not reduce to the genotype. Human beings’ inheritance is mostly phenotype, not genotype: this is why we can share 99% of our genotype with mice, and still be quite different  (except for those addicted to plutocracy, who may as well be mice).

Granted, one should not do whatever. Fluorescent mini-pigs should be amusing, but not if their fluorescence prevents them to sleep. Worse: a very promising, but hyper dangerous technique exists, the GENE DRIVE. In a gene drive, the CRISPR itself is made part of the genetic information which is added.

Promising? Experimentally, some mosquitoes species were then infected with 99.5% success with immunity to the malaria parasite. That would make malaria disappear faster than Bill Gates takes to visit five-star hotels on his way to do whatever in the name of malaria. So it’s an excellent thing. On the danger side, species could be eradicated. That technique could also obviously be weaponized.

***

We are the astonishing the species. Stupendous astonishment is what we do.

What is predictable is not astonishing, and what is truly astonishing, is not predictable.

Such philosophical musings are actually intensely practical. I am going to show how.

***

With CRISPR all genetic diseases become potentially curable: Considering Huntington’s and Duchenne muscular dystrophy leads Doudna to write in her book: “The stakes are simply too high to exclude the possibility of eventually using germline editing.”Strange formulation: the stakes are simply too high to exclude the possibility of eventually using life saving technology?

I shall be even clearer. Those not all out for using CRISPR to cure human diseases are on the same moral side as those who didn’t go all out to prevent Auschwitz, although they knew about it. Yeah, no, I’m not exaggerating, but it’s going to be a bit difficult to explain why. 

By editing DNA at will, we become the architect of creation.

When one can alleviate human pain and suffering, absent adverse consequences, one has to do so. It’s a moral imperative. Otherwise one joins the ranks of those who could have done something about Auschwitz, and didn’t. Actually, it’s worse: opposing those who operated Auschwitz clearly had adverse consequences!

***

Same basic story as above, rolled out again to explain better…

Jennifer Doudna: “The truth is, I don’t have answers.” Doudna would like to have the public participate in the debate. However, says Doudna: “There’s a disconnect between the scientific community and mainstream culture, a real degradation in trust by the public. Many scientists — I’m guilty of this too — find it much more fun to do the next experiment in the lab than to take the time to explain to non-specialists what we do or how the scientific process actually works.”

Doudna is still searching for red lines that CRISPR technology shouldn’t cross. “I struggle with the question of crossing boundaries of speciation that are naturally in place” — For example 28,000 people are grafted every year in the USA. The demand is five times that, at least. Raising pigs with human-compatible organs becomes possible with CRISPR.  “You might decide that it would be unethical not to do that,” says Doudna, unhelpfully.

I love Doudna. She and Charpentier should get the Nobel. However, she somewhat disingenuously pretends to believe that, given our limited knowledge about the human genome, there shouldn’t be clinical use of CRISPR in the human germ line at present. (She does not really believes this, because she is not an idiot, but she affects to play a fair, Politically Correct game…) But she also admits that the balance is delicate. The same technology that might cure genetic-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Duchenne, diabetes and cancer might someday be used frivolously. Strangely Doudna pretends that “I don’t think that’s going to happen any time very soon, just because we don’t have the knowledge,” Doudna says. “But is it coming in 50 or 100 years?” She pauses to reflect, then says: “Yeah.”

However this is all a fake debate: it has been done with mice. Thus, it can be done with people. Thanks to the People’s Republic of China, it’s going to happen all over human disease. Mr. Xi just inverted the one-child policy established 40 years ago, he can earn more brownie points by curing human diseases.

CRISPR is a wonderful tool, to gather knowledge, and THEN to pontificate upon the morality this knowledge will entail. THEN.

To try to pontificate about the consequences of CRISPR now, when we don’t know so much, is unscientific. It will feed the enemy of the scientific method, by having scientists pretending to think when they can’t. As Doudna herself said, she doesn’t know.  

Indeed, the chicken-egg can’t come before the evolution which led to them. So the science has to plough ahead, and inform We The People. Then we can moralize.

Experiment, then moralize.

A reader told me, about the preceding aphorism that “Historically, you have it wrong; even though you may be right”. Right. I was expressing a moral imperative, not a historical observation of how people behaved. Experiment then moralize: the way of the thinker. Moralize, then be careful not to experiment: the way of those on the wrong side of history. 

CRISPR is on the right side of history. Follow it, to learn not just how to get more power, but how to become more moral

Patrice Ayme’


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GrrrGraphics on WordPress

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Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

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