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The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene…
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The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the… (edição 2021)

por Walter Isaacson (Autor)

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4152047,373 (4.28)42
Título:The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race
Autores:Walter Isaacson (Autor)
Informação:Simon & Schuster (2021), 560 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca, Em leitura

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The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race por Walter Isaacson

Adicionado recentemente porleisurehour1892, biblioteca privada, PJNeal, pltgsage, nmwiegand, NavyNeptune, ChrisWang, alcottacre
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This is probably one of the most important science – or even nonfiction books in toto – that I have ever read.

It’s the biography of Nobel winning scientist Jennifer Doudna, but it’s also the story of CRISPR a revolutionary system that now takes human genome editing out of the realm of science fiction and into reality.

Since the beginning of bacterial genomic sequencing decades ago, scientists saw that bacterial DNA has repeating sections. These were a puzzle and were often theorized to be repeats of important genes or merely leftover nonsense sequences to provide spacing between genes.

But the utterly astounding truth was that these repeats were being used by bacteria to remember and destroy viruses that had previously attacked them. Bacteria - single celled organisms without a nucleus - had devised a way of remembering and fending off attackers and created the elegant beginnings of an immune system.

These became known as CRISPR - Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.

This discovery was first used to fend off viruses that attacked valuable bacterial yogurt cultures.

But as research progressed, scientists realized that CRISPR provided a tool that could target specific genes in any species.

Combined with genes that would make the CRISPR tools pass through the human nucleus, human DNA itself could be targeted and changed.

This was demonstrated in somatic cells – cells that circulate and replicate but would not have their changed DNA passed on to offspring of the treated patient. It was a cure for sickle cell anemia – but at a price tag of over a million dollars per patient.

There was, however, a line that researchers didn’t want to cross – making changes in germline cells; changes to these cells in the very early developments of embryos would ensure that the offspring of the patients would also have the changes.

And then, a Chinese researcher, He Jiankui, crossed that line. He performed in vitro fertilization and then edited the genomes of the embryos. The edited targeted gene, CCR5, codes for a protein that HIV uses to enter cells. The resulting twin girls would no longer succumb to the virus that causes AIDS. It was done imperfectly; one twin only had the genetic change on one of her two chromosomes. Both girls’ bodies had a mosaic of immune and non-immune cells suggesting it was done at a slightly too late stage of embryonic development.

But the genie was out of the bottle – it had been demonstrated that the human genome was able to be freed of disease causing genes and enhanced with genes that humans see as more desirable.

All of this invokes a huge number of moral and ethical questions. Gene editing has passed from the age of science fiction and into reality. There is now a way to make targeted changes to rewrite the human genome. It’s no longer ‘Could we?’ but ‘should we?’ and even “How can we possibly prevent the next steps”? It may not even be possible to regulate this new form of genetic engineering which could create a form of ‘genetic engineering tourism’ as cash rich patients seek relatively simple procedures in cash strapped countries.

Unfortunately, it also opened the door to a set of CRISPR biological weapons which would literally edit human DNA – followed closely by an industry of anti-CRSPR counter weapons to offset such attacks.

Then came the Corona Virus – an RNA virus that was sweeping through humanity. A large consortium of scientists working on various aspects of CRISPR throughout many nations, gathered together via remote technology to brainstorm how CRISPR could effectively help. CRISPR knowledge had given them many new tools to understand and work with viral mRNA.

Their first focus was using CRISPR tools for testing for the Covid-19 gene presence in human samples.

A second question became using the RNA tools to deliver the critical portion of the virus’s protein to the nuclei of patients’ cells. As viral RNA does, this portion of the viral mRNA would temporarily take over the hosts’s DNA to produce the spike protein – and alert the host’s cells that an intruder needed to be eliminated. Enter the highly successful mRNA vaccines.

Ongoing CRISPR investigations may produce more therapeutics to fight the virus in patients.

And of course, there’s the question of whether the human genome could (or even should) be rewritten to block Covid and other Corona viruses from entering the cell at all.

Read this book. The door of the future has been opened and this is the sweeping technology that will be there.

If you have a background in science or genetics, the first section of this 500 page book will read like a detective novel. If you have less background and find this first section overwhelming, skim through or skip it and go onwards. You’ll be glad you did. ( )
1 vote streamsong | Oct 1, 2021 |
2021 book #57. 2021. How Jennifer Doudna won a Nobel Prize for inventing CRISPR, a technique for editing human genes. Quite an interesting story. Just in time these techniques were helpful in developing new tests and vaccines for COVID. ( )
  capewood | Sep 24, 2021 |
An excellent book about a notable scientist and a very important subject; gene editing. Nobel Prize-winning is a skill that takes diligence, persistence, and luck, particularly for women. Jennifer Doudna's path was not easy but was rewarded with the Prize. The biographical part of this book is excellent and interesting. But the author's analysis of the impact of the research now and for the foreseeable future is far-reaching and outstanding. ( )
  jamespurcell | Sep 16, 2021 |
What an amazing story. Isaacson is such a great writer/storyteller, he keeps the mystery alive and I wanted to keep on reading no matter what to find out what was going to happen next.
I am a business person, not a scientist, and this was so interesting and current with our times that I feel I now have a good working understanding of this CRISPER technology. This is truly a Nobel prize worthy discovery. It will be very interesting to see how the ethics of it all plays out in the years to come. ( )
  Katyefk | Sep 9, 2021 |
This is an extremely difficult book to review for me. I really loved parts of it, and was totally bored by others. Bear in mind that I listened to this book, not read it, so the boring parts couldn't be skimmed.

Walter Isaacson usually writes biographies. This isn't one. At least, it isn't one of Jennifer Doudna, in the usual sense, though she is one of the central characters. It would be more accurate to say that this was the biography of CRISPR, the gene-editing tool that many researchers developed, in the investigative and very competitive process that is described here.

I loved learning about the epochal battle between bacteria and virus that led to CRISPR and it's adaptation by skilled researchers. I was fascinated by the background of the vaccines for COVID-19 and the companies that developed them.

I enjoyed the human aspect of Doudna's background and her personal connections with Emmanuelle Charpentier and the other scientists that led to the ability to manipulate genetic codes. Isaacson gives credit to many scientists in the course of the book, and many of their stories are arresting.

I didn't enjoy the parts of the book that focused on the completion to publish first and patent first, or the private companies that were set up to monetize the research.

All in all, I learned things, and while wading through boring chapters wasn't fun, the book is worth your time – the print version, which you can skim. ( )
  wdwilson3 | Sep 9, 2021 |
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