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

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

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Overview

A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer A. Doudna, Samuel H. Sternberg

A trailblazing biologist grapples with her role in the biggest scientific discovery of our era: a cheap, easy way of rewriting genetic code, with nearly limitless promise and peril .

Not since the atomic bomb has a technology so alarmed its inventors that they warned the world about its use. Not, that is, until the spring of 2015, when biologist Jennifer Doudna called for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the new gene-editing tool CRISPR—a revolutionary new technology that she helped create—to make heritable changes in human embryos. The cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known, CRISPR may well give us the cure to HIV, genetic diseases, and some cancers, and will help address the world’s hunger crisis. Yet even the tiniest changes to DNA could have myriad, unforeseeable consequences—to say nothing of the ethical and societal repercussions of intentionally mutating embryos to create “better” humans.
 
Writing with fellow researcher Samuel Sternberg, Doudna shares the thrilling story of her discovery, and passionately argues that enormous responsibility comes with the ability to rewrite the code of life. With CRISPR, she shows, we have effectively taken control of evolution. What will we do with this unfathomable power?
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328915368
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/21/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 74,592
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

JENNIFER A. DOUDNA, Ph.D. is a professor in the Chemistry and the Molecular and Cell Biology Departments at the University of California, Berkeley, investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and researcher in the Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She is internationally recognized as a leading expert on RNA-protein biochemistry, CRISPR biology, and genome engineering. She lives in the Bay Area.


DR. SAMUEL H. STERNBERG is a protein-RNA biochemist and author of numerous high-profile scientific publications on CRISPR technology. He runs a research laboratory at Columbia University, where he is assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics. He lives in New York City.
 

Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE
THE WAVE

 
 
In my dream, I am standing on a beach.
   To either side of me, a long, salt-and-pepper strip of sand runs along the water, outlining a large bay. It is, I realize, the shore of the island of Hawaii where I grew up: the edge of Hilo Bay, where I once spent weekends with friends watching canoe races and searching for shells and the glass balls that sometimes washed ashore from Japanese fishing boats.
   But today there are no friends, canoes, or fishing boats in sight. The beach is empty, the sand and water unnaturally still. Beyond the break-water, light plays gently along the surface of the ocean, as if to soothe the fear I’ve carried since girlhood  — the dread that haunts every Hiloan, no matter how young. My generation grew up without experiencing a tsunami, but we have all seen the photos. We know our town sits in the inundation zone.
   As if on cue, I see it in the distance. A wave.
   It is tiny at first but grows by the second, rising before me in a towering wall, its crest of whitecaps obscuring the sky. Behind it are other waves, all rolling toward the shore.
   I am paralyzed with fear  —  but as the tsunami looms closer, my terror gives way determination. I notice a small wooden shack behind me. It is my friend Pua’s place, with a pile of surfboards scattered out front. I grab one and splash into the water, paddle out into the bay, round the breakwater, and head directly into the oncoming waves. Before the first one overtakes me, I’m able to duck through it, and when I emerge on the other side, I surf down the second. As I do, I soak in the view. The sight is amazing  —  there’s Mauna Kea and, beyond it, Mauna Loa, rising protectively above the bay and reaching toward the sky.
   I blink awake in my Berkeley, California, bedroom, thousands of miles away from my childhood home.
   It is July 2015, and I am in the middle of the most exciting, overwhelming year of my life. I’ve begun having dreams like this regularly, and the recognition of their deeper meaning comes easily now. The beach is a mirage, but the waves, and the tangle of emotions they inspire  —  fear, exultation, hope, and awe  —  are only too real.
   My name is Jennifer Doudna. I am a biochemist, and I have spent the majority of my career in a laboratory, conducting research on topics that most people outside of my field have never heard of. In the past half decade, however, I have become involved in a groundbreaking area of the life sciences, a subject whose progress cannot be contained by the four walls of any academic research center. My colleagues and I have been swept up by an irresistible force not unlike the tsunami in my dream  —   except this tidal wave is one that I helped trigger.
   By the summer of 2015, the biotechnology that I’d helped establish only a few years before was growing at a pace that I could not have imagined. And its implications were seismic  —  not just for the life sciences, but for all life on earth.
   This book is its story, and mine. It is also yours. Because it won’t be long before the repercussions from this technology reach your doorstep too.
 

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Wave xi

Part I The Tool

1 The Quest for a Cure 3

2 A New Defense 35

3 Cracking the Code 60

4 Command and Control 86

Part II The Task

5 The CRISPR Menagerie 117

6 To Heal the Sick 154

7 The Reckoning 184

8 What Lies Ahead 213

Epilogue: The Beginning 241

Acknowledgments 247

Notes 250

Index 270

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A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am amazed at the phenomenal progress in this area of biology and how little is known by the public. I think this book is much needed and timely. Im greatful some are thinking about how this new found knowledge could affect our future and taking the time to think before they act unawares of the results. Thank you all for your wisdom. I hope more discussion will take place before we jump ahead too far.