Gene Editing: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Scientists are developing new ways to alter the genetic code of living organisms. John Oliver explores the risks, rewards, and wolf-related hazards of gene editing.
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[music]. science essentially math disguised as. dinosaurs and outer space to try and . seem interesting. specifically the story concerns . gene-editing it's a topic you may have . heard about given it's now a plot point . in action movies like rampage what's . happening to my friend are you familiar . with genetic editing changes will be . incredibly unpredictable is he the only . one oh you didn't know about the 30-foot . wall . [music]. wait a second wait just a second let me. get this straight . this is a movie about aerial military. equipment being harnessed to fight a . 30-foot wolf and it is not called wolf . blitzer that is a huge boost opportunity . that's movie malpractice there look . gene-editing . isn't only showing up in movie starring . rock the dwayne johnson no it's also now . constantly brought up on tv with with . varying degrees of excitement or extreme . alarm a stunning and controversial . breakthrough in science has arrived . gene-editing . this is a milestone that could one day . erase hereditary conditions some fear . the technology could be used to create . designer babies these technology has the. potential to change our dna and the dna . of all organisms alive and extinct could . that lead to eugenics could that lead to . new divides in humanity i don't know . that stuff is that's just scary . exactly it seems gene editing is either . going to cure all disease or kill every . last one of us and the truth is anytime . there is a bold new technology people do . tend to go nuts . i'm guessing after the invention of the . refrigerator there were a rash of . headlines like can meat be too cold and . what about the milkman america's . friendly neighborhood we're done so. tonight we thought we'd take some time . to talk about gene editing what it is . what its potential could be and what the . chances are that we're all going to be . killed by a 30-foot wolf and let's start. with the fact that gene noticing . actually isn't new there have been . technologies like these around for years . what is new and what is driving a lot of . recent coverage is something called . crispr which stands for crunchy rectums . in sassy pink ray bats . except it doesn't it stands for this but . you won't remember that and you actually . don't need to so let's go back to the . crunchy wrexham thing crispr is very . complicated but but one of the key . scientists who unlocked its potential . jennifer doudna has a simple way of . explaining how it works i like to use . the analogy of word processing because . it's very analogous to that you think of . the dna code like the text of a document . this is the scissors that allows you to . cut out text change it the cell takes . over after this after . the dna is broken and makes a precise . change at the site of the repair right . that is very basically it it's like cut . and paste in microsoft word if there's . something that you want to fix on a . strand of dna with crispr you could . theoretically find it cut it out and . paste in a fix. at which point presumably clippy shows . up and says hi it looks like you're . trying to play god and alter the basic . building blocks of life these sapele . crispus potential is huge there are . hopes that they might eventually be . applied to more than 10,000 conditions . from sickle cell anemia to cystic . fibrosis to some cases of early onset. alzheimer's but gene editing is wildly . difficult diseases typically have. multiple genes that contribute to them . and human trials have been extremely . rare although there have been some . promising results just months ago baby . layla was dying of acute lymphoblastic . leukemia so doctors agreed to try out an . experimental immuno cell therapy which . had never been used outside the lab the . result astounded her parents. i took the gamble and this is her today . standing laughing giggling and i'm the . fact with a miracle that's fantastic and . he's right it is a miracle except really . think about it it's actually not it's . science which i'd argue is actually . better and more convenient than a . miracle because you don't have to spend . the next two thousand years worshiping . the scientist you can just be like . thanks amazing story for the most part . applications of gina acing have been . confined to experiments on plants and . animals where the results have been. striking if often a little weird . researchers at this lab used crispr to . isolate and manipulate the beagles. muscle or myostatin gene making these . the most muscular beagles in the world . okay okay all right so you might think . it's strange that scientists mage act . sexy beagles but did you ever even . consider that the scientists were lady . beetles change your preconceptions about . what a scientist can be hashtag beagle . feminism hashtag science bitches. it's not it's not just we've paid . because scientists are researching ways . to fight human diseases using mice and . while scientists know how painstakingly. slow this kind of research is it is. tempting for the rest of us to start. racing ahead and wildly speculating . about where this is all going could . crispr give us unicorns so there are . examples of animals that have single . horns in the middle so like the . rhinoceros has one and its nose but . there are other ancient rhinoceros i . have it in the middle of the head so . anyway i think that you could get a . single horn on a horse by looking at . horns and other species so it's in the . realm of possibility yes okay so so i've . gotta say judging by all the hedging he . just did in that answer even if we do . one day career at a unicorn it's clearly . not going to be this majestic creature . who wants you to follow it into a magic . waterfall it'll be more like this a . monster that would beg please kill me . and this and this madness now in fact in . fact for a good sense of the mismatch . between expectation and current . capabilities just look at a project that . that scientist is working on right now . bringing back the woolly mammoth it has . been hyped in headlines all over the . world. but they are nowhere close to creating a . living animal yet and even computer . simulations are underwhelming in the lab . they've edited about 35 functioning . woolly mammoth genes into the asian . elephant genome this is a good start for . making a semi woolly mammoth yeah that's . not a woolly mammoth oh that's just a . wrong elephant. it's not so much jurassic park as an . off-brand $3. 00 petting zoo cause pet or . whatever but if you watch the news you . may have noticed that you're not just . seeing professional scientists and . that's because the underlying technology . of crispr is so cheap and widely . available almost anyone can use it so . gene editing stories almost always . feature a detour to meet bio hackers . like josiah zana here in the bay area . where visiting a bio hacker in his . garage he's selling crispr kids diy . crispr kids for a couple of hundred . dollars you can buy this cutting edge . kit that allows you to use this . technology and you don't need anything . else you don't need a phd and you could . do experiments with crispr like that i. think is really cool okay well sounds . revolutionary but to be fair selling . strangers things covered in unfamiliar . dna out of your garage already has a . name and it's every single garage sale . in human history i would like to buy . your lamp please and then i'm going to . take it home and wash it and look he's . basically selling chemistry sets in the . extent that they get people excited . about science that's a good thing but . you can see why scientists get . frustrated when biohackers like designer . hog all the media attention especially . because he makes some pretty wild . statements like i want to live in a . world where people get drunk and instead . of giving themselves tattoos they're . like i'm drunk i'm going to crispr . myself which is a terrible idea . honestly you shouldn't even get drunk . and tattoo yourself . however cool robert duvall's face . covering your midriff seems at the time . i'm just saying i have some regrets . last october xena even publicly injected . himself with dna that had been modified. using crispr to try and give himself . bigger muscles which did not work but in . that same video he argued that using . crispr should ideally be like . downloading an app you don't have to . know what the app does how to program it . works anything like that and i think . that's the way it should be with genetic . engineering synthetic biology why can't . people use this technology without . necessarily completely knowing how it . works oh i can answer that one for you . because it could be dangerous and . someone could get hurt also i refuse to . take scientific insight from someone. shooting vertical footage on an iphone . that is unforgivable that is . disqualifying immediately and now says . he regrets that experiment that kind of . behavior is a real worry for serious . scientists not just that a biohacker . will hurt themselves but that doctors or . scientists might rush a human . application before it's ready things go . wrong and the whole field is then set . back yes that is exactly what happened . to the field of gene therapy when a . patient named jesse gail singer died . during a poorly designed trial and . that's not the only thing that . scientists worry about because the . benefits and the drawbacks of gene . editing can extend well beyond one. person and to understand why it helps to . be familiar with a key distinction . somatic cells are most of the cells in . the body blood brain skin cells where . the dna doesn't get passed down to . offspring germline edits involve sperm . eggs or embryos basically changing the . dna of future generations . exactly somatic cells die with you . germline cells get passed down through . generations so much of what you've seen . so far tonight like baby laila
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