Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever – CRISPR

magine you were alive back in the 1980’s, and were told that computers would soon take over everything: from shopping, to dating, and the stock market, that billions of people would be connected via a kind of web, that you would own a handheld device, orders of magnitudes more powerful than supercomputers. It would seem absurd, but then, all of it happened. Science fiction became our reality, and we don’t even think about it. We’re at a similar point today with genetic engineering. So, let’s talk about it. Where it came from, what we’re doing right now, and about a recent breakthrough, that will change how we live and what we perceive as normal, forever. Humans have been engineering life for thousands of years. Through selective breeding, we strengthened useful traits in plants and animals. We became very good at this, but never fully understood how it worked. Until we discovered the code of life, Deoxyribonucleic Acid—DNA. A complex molecule that guides the growth, development, function, and reproduction of everything alive. Information is encoded in the structure of the molecule. Four nucleotides are paired and make up a code that carries instructions. Change the instructions and you change the being carrying it. As soon as DNA was discovered, people tried to tinker with it. In the 1960’s, scientist bombarded plants with radiation to cause random mutations in the genetic code. The idea was to get a useful plant variation by pure chance. Sometimes it actually worked too. In the 70’s, scientists inserted DNA
snippets into bacteria, plants, and animals to study and modify them for
research, medicine, agriculture, and for fun. The earliest genetically modified animal
was born in 1974, making mice a standard tool for research, saving millions of lives. In the 80’s, we got commercial. The first patent was given for a microbe engineered to absorb oil. Today we produce many chemicals by means of engineered life, like life-saving clotting factors, growth hormones, and insulin. All things we had to harvest from the organs of animals before that. The first food modified in the lab went on sale in 1994: the Flavr Savr tomato, a tomato given a much longer shelf life where an extra gene that suppresses the build-up of a rotting enzyme. But GM food and the controversy surrounding them deserve a video of their own. In the 1990’s, there was also a brief
foray into human engineering. To treat maternal infertility, babies were made that carried genetic information from 3 humans. Making them the first humans ever to have 3 genetic parents. Today there are super muscled pigs, fast-growing salmon, featherless chicken, and see-through frogs. On the fun side, we made things glow in the dark. Fluorescent zebrafish are available for
as little as ten dollars. All of this is already very impressive, but until recently gene editing was extremely expensive,
complicated, and took a long time to do. This has now changed with a revolutionary new technology now entering the stage—CRISPR. Overnight, the costs of engineering have shrunk by 99 %. Instead of a year, it takes a few weeks to conduct experiments, and basically everybody with a lab can do it. It’s hard to get across how big a technical revolution CRISPR is. It literally has the potential to change humanity forever. Why did this sudden revolution happen and how does it work? Bacteria and viruses have been fighting
since the dawn of life. So-called bacteriophages or phages hunt bacteria. In the ocean, phages kill 40 % of them every single day. Phages do this by inserting their own genetic code into the bacteria and taking them over to use them as factories. The bacteria tried to resist but failed most the time because their protection tools are too weak, But sometimes bacteria survive an attack. Only if they do so can they activate their most effective antivirus system: they save a part of the virus DNA in their own genetic code in a DNA archive called CRISPR. Here it’s stored safely until it’s needed. When the virus attacks again, the bacterium quickly makes an RNA copy from the DNA archive and arms a secret weapon—a protein called CAS9. The protein now scans the bacterium’s
insides for signs of the virus invader by comparing every bit of DNA it finds to the sample from the archive. When it finds a 100-percent perfect match, it’s activated and cuts out the virus
DNA, making it useless, protecting the bacterium against the attack. What’s special is that CAS9 is very
precise, almost like a DNA surgeon. The revolution began when scientists figured out that the CRISPR system is programmable. You can just give it a copy of DNA you want to modify and put the system into a living cell. If the old techniques of genetic manipulation were like a map, CRISPR is like a GPS system. Aside from being precise, cheap, and easy, CRISPR offers the ability to edit live cells, to switch genes on and off, and target and study particular DNA sequences. It also works for every type of cell: microorganisms, plants, animals, or humans. But despite the revolution CRISPR is for science, it’s still just a first generation tool. More precise tools are already being created and used as we speak. In 2015, scientists use CRISPR to cut the HIV virus out of living cells from patients in the lab, proving that it was possible. Only about a year later, they carried out a larger scale project with rats that had the HIV virus in basically all of their body cells. By simply injecting CRISPR into the rats tails, they were able to remove more than 50 %
of the virus from cells all over the body. In a few decades, a CRISPR therapy
might cure HIV and other retroviruses, viruses that hide inside human DNA like
Herpes could be eradicated this way. CRISPR could also defeat one of our worst enemies—cancer. Cancer occurs when cells refuse to die and keep multiplying while concealing themselves from the immune system. CRISPR gives us the means to edit your immune cells and make them better cancer hunters. Getting rid of cancer might eventually mean getting just a couple of injections of a
few thousand of your own cells that have been engineered in the lab to heal you for good. The first clinical trial for a CRISPR cancer treatment on human patients was approved in early 2016 in the
US. Not even a month later, Chinese scientists announced that they would treat lung cancer patients with immune cells modified with CRISPR in August 2016. Things are picking up pace quickly. And then there are genetic diseases. There are thousands of them and they range from mildly annoying to deadly or entail decades of suffering. With a powerful tool like CRISPR, we may be able to end this. Over 3,000 genetic diseases are caused by a single incorrect letter in your DNA. We are already building a modified
version of CAS9 that is made to change just a single letter, fixing the disease in the cell. In a decade or two, we could possibly cure thousands of diseases forever. But all of these medical applications have one thing in common: they are limited to the individual and die with them, except if you use them on reproductive cells or very early embryos. But CRISPR can and probably will be used for much more: the creation of modified humans—designer babies—and will mean gradual, but irreversible changes to the human gene pool. The means to edit the genome of a human embryo already exists. Though the technology is still in its early stages, but it has already been attempted twice. In 2015 and 2016, Chinese scientists experimented with human embryos and were partially successful on their second attempt. They showed the enormous challenges we still face in gene editing embryos, but also that scientists are
working on solving them. This is like the computer in the 70’s. There will be better computers. Regardless of your personal take on
genetic engineering, it will affect you. Modified humans could alter the genome of our entire species, because their engineered traits will be passed on to their children and could spread over generations, slowly modifying the whole gene pool of humanity. It will start slowly. The first designer babies will not be overly designed. It’s most likely that they will be created to eliminate a deadly genetic disease running in a family. As the technology progresses and gets
more refined, more and more people may argue that not using genetic modification is unethical, because it condemns children to preventable suffering and death and denies them the cure. But as soon as the first engineered kid is born, a door is opened that can’t be closed anymore. Early on, vanity traits will mostly be left alone. But as genetic modification becomes more accepted and our knowledge of our genetic code enhances, the temptation will grow. If you make your offspring immune to Alzheimer, why not also give them an enhanced metabolism? Why not throw in perfect eyesight? How about height or muscular structure? Full hair? How about giving your child the gift of
extraordinary intelligence? Huge changes are made as a result of the personal decisions of millions of individuals that accumulate. This is a slippery slope. Modified humans could become the new standard. But as engineering becomes more
normal and our knowledge improves, we could solve the single biggest mortality risk factor: aging. Two-thirds of the 150,000 people who died today will die of age-related causes. Currently we think aging is caused by the accumulation of damage to our cells, like DNA breaks and the systems responsible for fixing those wearing off over time. But there are also genes that directly affect aging. A combination of genetic engineering and other therapy could stop or slow down aging, maybe even reverse it. We know from nature that there are animals immune to aging. Maybe we could even borrow a few genes for ourselves. Some scientists even think biological aging could be something that eventually just stops being a thing. We would still die at some point, but instead of doing so in hospitals at age 90, we might be able to spend a few thousand years with our loved ones. Research into this is in its infancy, and many scientists are rightly skeptical about the end of aging. The challenges are enormous and maybe it is unachievable, but it is conceivable the people alive today might be the first to profit from effective anti aging therapy. All we might need is for someone to convince a smart billionaire to make it their next problem to solve. On a bigger scale, we certainly could solve many problems by having a modified population. Engineered humans might be better equipped to cope with high-energy food, eliminating many diseases of civilization like obesity. In possession of a modified immune system, with a library of potential threats, we might become immune to most diseases that haunt us today. Even further into the future, we could engineer humans to be equipped for extended space travel and to cope with different conditions on another planets, which would be extremely helpful in
keeping us alive in our hostile universe. Still, a few major challenges await us: some technological, some ethical. Many of you watching will feel uncomfortable and fear that we will create a world in which we will reject non-perfect humans and pre-select features and qualities based on our idea of what’s healthy. The thing is we are already living in
this world. Tests for dozens of genetic diseases or complications have become standard for pregnant women in much of the world. Often the mere suspicion of a genetic defect can lead to the end of a pregnancy. Take Down syndrome for example, one of the most common genetic defects. In Europe, about 92 % of all pregnancies where it’s detected are terminated. The decision to terminate pregnancy is incredibly personal, but it’s important to acknowledge the reality that we are pre-selecting humans based on medical conditions. There is also no use in pretending this will change, so we have to act carefully and respectfully as we advance the technology and can make more and more
selections. But none of this will happen soon. As powerful as CRISPR is—and it is, it’s not infallible yet. Wrong edits still happen as well as unknown errors that can occur anywhere in the DNA and might go unnoticed. The gene edit might achieve the desired result—disabling a disease, but also might accidentally trigger unwanted changes. We just don’t know enough yet about the
complex interplay of our genes to avoid unpredictable consequences. Working on accuracy and monitoring methods is a major concern as the first human trials begin. And since we’ve discussed a possible positive future, there are darker visions too. Imagine what a state like North Korea
could do if they embraced genetic engineering. Could a state cement its rule forever by forcing gene editing on their subjects? What would stop a totalitarian regime from engineering an army of modified super soldiers? It is doable in theory. Scenarios like this one are far, far off into the future, if they ever become possible at all. But the basic proof of concept for genetic engineering like this already exists today. The technology really is that powerful. While this might be a tempting reason to ban genetic editing and related research, that would certainly be a mistake. Banning human genetic engineering would only lead to the science wandering off to a place with jurisdiction and rules
that we are uncomfortable with. Only by participating can we make sure that further research is guided by caution, reason, oversight, and transparency. Do you feel uncomfortable now? Most of us have something wrong with them. In the future that lies ahead of us, would we have been allowed to exist? The technology is certainly a bit scary, but we have a lot to gain, and genetic engineering might just be a step in the natural evolution of intelligent species in the universe. We might end disease. We could extend our life expectancy by centuries and travel to the stars. There’s no need to think small when it comes to this topic. Whatever your opinion on genetic engineering, the future is approaching no matter what. What has been insane science fiction is about to become our new reality, a reality full of opportunities and challenges. Videos like this would not be possible without viewer donations on If you want to support to explaining complicated stuff and maybe get your own bird in return, you can do so here. If you want to learn more about CRISPR, we put the sources and further reading in the description. More videos about the whole topic area will follow. If you want to be notified when it happens, you can follow us here.

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100 thoughts on “Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever – CRISPR

  1. iF SomEoNE cAN maKE mE LIvE foReVeR I'Ll pAay hIM aLl mY mONeY tO MaKe ME LIve FOreVEr aFtER KiDnaAppiNG HiM aND hoLdINg hIM AT guN poINT

  2. Science fiction was created to get the masses 'used to' what they already had for decades. You can't force it on people they have to think it's their idea to 'accept' it, as if we have a choice

  3. "Micro-organisms, plants, *animals* or humans."

    I get you had to separate the two since most of the audience wont exactly be too smart, or even like the fact of the truth.

    But for everyone out there, *humans ARE animals.*

    Just noting.

  4. I really like your videos because they are very educational. But please leave out political talks. I mean you guys just said yourselves that you are supported by the zdf etc. . I have done some research about zdf and the Rundfunk and it was not good. Eversince i approach political news about e.g. what country is bad and what is not with care when its coming from the zdf group. Same goes for your channel. I really like it but only for the scientific education not the political one. Just my opinion though. ^^

  5. Designer babies and super soldiers have already happened. They just don't tell us. Genetically modified foods are unhealthy as we all know. GM animals die early of complications. Those glow fish are aggressive. I wonder why? If you kids get into this line of work, you're only contributing to the problem, and this is an extremely serious problem. Major health issues you will create for many people unless you're in it to cure diseases then go for it.

  6. Manipulated your dna stranded ! Scientist think they are god ! Called : evil ego scientist ! Arrogance self overrated glorification ! Are mentally ill scientist doctors ! Reminder that ! They are the sadist !

  7. This video actually was what made me intrested in genetics now I'm going to college for biochemistry to become a geneticist thanks kurgesagt

  8. eternal youth? more like overpopulation and hierarchy of older ones who lived hundreads of year since *they lived more and where the first to be eternal youh*. blah blah blah you get the memo.

  9. I actually really hope this all happens. Even with the risks I would be more than happy to take that risk to become genetically superior in every way with a simple shot with the only cost being I might accidentally die worst case senerio. Its just too much of an opportunity to pass up

  10. Expand the human race until it can harvest all things in the universe. Once we're there, only then will we be stopped.

  11. my main concern will be that applying crispr takes money, and you'll effectively have a rich upper class with better bodies and no diseases, and a poor lower class with all the issues we have today. the line between them will only grow if we don't get the access to it regulated

  12. I think that extending life expectancy might be dangerous for humanity as a whole because it will intensify problem of overpopulation. Yet if we would be able to develop life that far that it doesn't even need air we might live in space, but even that will only delay that because there are limits to our colonisation of space because space is expanding.
    In the borders of our limits dark matter will expand faster than we could travel through it. So if we will extend our life like that we will start the clock which will start counting towards our end which will definitely come if we won't do something about it. So generic engineering is a great thing but we must be careful about it.

    BTW if you don't agree it's fine because we all can see it differently and that is just my opinion.

  13. Apple: redesign monitor stand, it cost $999
    Scientist: we made a glow in the dark fish, it only $9.99

  14. I can just imagine a roast battle in high school roasting another dude saying “boy I know your ugly genetic ass isn’t talking” lol.

  15. The background music is fire, especially this part that starts on 12:10, it's like a music that is for anything magical, which is perfect for this video

  16. My boss idea: Instead of making the cure for aging a problem for a smart billionaire, we should make a best plan for achieving it, break down all the stages of what would need to be done, list all the challenges/roadblocks, make each challenge an interactive video game test, release to the public with a cash payout for who wins resulting in us pushing past the problem.

  17. Without extending life, this world already full of human. Imagine if all people is almost impossible to die! Then we must be fight each other to decrease the population

  18. First of all, the brain does not have enough capacity to store all the information from your life of a thousand years.

  19. i have a 90 year old grandma in asia i told her that we have a TV thinner than her old picture frame she said its magic that we can do it. LOL

  20. I would ask not to mix everything together. My position:
    Firm "YES": genome editing for elimination of obvious inborn defects, for anti-aging purposes and for small improvements of existing people (if these changes cannot be passed to descendants).
    Firm "NO": genome editing for creation of "super-humans". This is a process with uncontrollable consequences that can even destroy humanity. Children must be born normal, grow up normal, and only as adults (if they will want themselves) get some genetic improvements, cleary understanding what they do and aftermath of that.
    Some kinds of modification must be freely available, but some kinds of modifications must be forbidden by law.

  21. We gotta do it so we can do space ships and sht and breath with carbon dioxide as well MAKE MEEEH FLY SCREEEEECH

  22. Just Imagine in the future capitalism will take over genetically modified babies and I would be $100,000 to have an extremely smart baby $200,000 for a high metabolism baby.

  23. We have destroyed that natural selection now any individual can be born and live and reproduce, now the steps for us to evolve depends on genetic engineering that is the new "natural selection"

  24. this brings up a very important point- banning such things won't stop people from getting what they want. it would just make it illegal and therefore more dangerous and unpredictable.

  25. Thinking ethically kills Human Progress. We have to use it. Firstly we are in debt for everyone who died from these deceases and for the family that suffered with them. Secondly our world is changing and we have to adept.

  26. isolation of HIV, bringing down the cold virues/bacteria gene, herpe healing, been in front of you the entire time but noooooooooooo lets go complain and cry, and mock people cause were so stupid to try a bit better, because some dumb fuck pays to hurt people. go on make another movie or video for every one made its ten days on your pain, man the calculations that go into this. its a normal thing to think of the years of the people that are being used as a host and spread stuff, and in some peoples tiny brains dont think of the years gone by and the years gone into this, by the tiny brain calculation, everyone! should have something in the same category. but mehhhhhh, the issue is this, its not something you give to a bunch of idiots and say hey you've been a complete bitch or an asshole for 1500 years heres a reward! YOUR ACTIONS DO NOT DESERVE THIS TYPE OF HEALING IN A WORLD WHERE ALL YOU WANNA DO HARM EACH OTHER, so really whats the point of healing when all you do is plan in the background to bring harm to another.? heal me so i can carry a gun, heal me so I can bury my face between another legs, heal me so I can bring negativity to the screens, heal me just so I can go on living and forgetting anything done wrong. ahem, dont know about you i'd rather die then go on living in this pathetic world of lie upon lies upon lies, just so you can say yeah we been to the moon, no one care you moved from A to B location, people do it all the time.

  27. What you mean, I can't wait till I'm 200 years old m, have a ceramic skeleton and graphine skin, becoming a nigh immortal supersoilder

  28. The interviews in the future:

    What do you think you will be doing after 100 years?

    I will be dead…

    Sorry we are looking for long term commitment.

  29. Actually the anti aging the thing might be the thing we need to send humans on far space trips. 81000 years to go to promixa centauri? No problem boblem for our supermodified unaging humans.

  30. Scientist: We can cure all diseases! We can create a much more upgraded version of the human body.
    Karen: N̶̫̗̙͍̻̘̮̺͊̆Ơ̴̙͌̈́͂͌́͋̆

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