Jennifer Kahn: Gene editing can now change an entire species -- forever
Jennifer Kahn - Science journalist
In articles that span the gene-editing abilities of CRISPR, the roots of psychopathic behavior in children, and much more, Jennifer Kahn weaves gripping stories from unlikely sources. Full bio
by telling you a brief story.
named Anthony James
of making mosquitos
and pretty much a complete failure.
to be really hard
just a few years ago,
that make it impossible
to survive inside the mosquito.
a malaria-resistant mosquito,
all the malaria-carrying mosquitos?
of native mosquitos to work.
with the villagers.
Anthony James got an email
and his grad student Valentino Gantz
that could not only guarantee
would be inherited,
it would basically solve the problem
working on for 20 years.
to carry the anti-malaria gene
so that any mosquitos
but would instead have red eyes.
which was which.
anti-malarial, red-eyed mosquitos
with 30 ordinary white-eyed ones,
with just two red-eyed mosquitos
shouting into the phone.
only red-eyed mosquitos
cornerstone of biology,
says when a male and a female mate,
of its DNA from each parent.
and our new mosquito is aB,
in four permutations:
even be possible.
known as CRISPR in 2012.
heard about CRISPR,
is a tool that allows researchers
easily and quickly.
that already existed in bacteria.
that acts like a scissors
that directs the scissors
a word processor for genes.
out, put one in,
letter within a gene.
originally had two problems?
to engineer a mosquito
thanks to CRISPR.
at Harvard named Kevin Esvelt
CRISPR inserted not only your new gene
that does the cutting and pasting.
also copied and pasted itself.
motion machine for gene editing.
that a trait will get passed on,
your new gene
of every single individual.
a heterozygous trait homozygous.
a very powerful,
didn't work very well
with an organism's genes,
less evolutionarily fit.
all the mutant fruit flies they want
just takes care of them.
and frightening about gene drives
a big evolutionary handicap,
will spread the change relentlessly
in the population.
a gene drive that works that well,
the door to some remarkable things.
to the entire population in a year.
from being able to do that,
a day die of malaria.
could be almost zero.
chikungunya, yellow fever.
of an invasive species,
out of the Great Lakes.
only male offspring.
there'll be no females left, no more carp.
hundreds of native species
could change an entire species,
in a bio-containment lab
that's not native to the US
for them to mate with.
Asian carp with the all-male gene drive
from the Great Lakes back to Asia,
the native Asian carp population.
given how connected our world is.
an invasive species problem.
and oceans all the time.
might not stay confined
that neighboring species
a gene drive could cross over,
some other kind of carp.
just promotes a trait, like eye color.
chance that we'll see
in the near future.
to eliminate the species entirely.
is that the technology to do this,
and include a gene drive,
in the world can do.
with some equipment can do it.
that this sounds terrifying.
nearly every scientist I talk to
actually that frightening or dangerous.
that scientists will be
about using them.
some actual limitations.
only in sexually reproducing species.
to engineer viruses or bacteria.
only with each successive generation.
has a fast reproductive cycle,
small vertebrates like mice or fish.
it would take centuries
widely enough to matter.
to engineer a truly devastating trait.
instead of rotting fruit,
what the fly wants to eat,
and complicated project.
to change the fly's behavior
and more complicated project.
that control behavior are complex.
and have to choose
basic research program
lab work and still might not pan out,
because at least in theory,
to build what's called a reversal drive.
the change made by the first gene drive.
the effects of a change,
that will cancel it out,
to change entire species at will.
how to regulate gene drives.
some other very smart people
or peter out after a few generations.
but Tanzania doesn't?
a gene drive that can fly?
about the risks and benefits
to use a gene drive,
that the safest option
and those need to be discussed,
and kills 1,000 people a day.
that do grave damage to other species,
in the coming months,
be hearing about them,
About the speaker:Jennifer Kahn - Science journalist
In articles that span the gene-editing abilities of CRISPR, the roots of psychopathic behavior in children, and much more, Jennifer Kahn weaves gripping stories from unlikely sources.
Why you should listen
Jennifer Kahn likes to seek out complex stories, with the goal of illuminating their nuances. She teaches in the magazine program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine; she has written features and cover stories for The New Yorker, National Geographic, Outside, Wired and many more.
Her work has appeared in the Best American Science Writing anthology series four times, most recently for the New Yorker story “A Cloud of Smoke,” a story on the complicated death of a policeman after 9/11.
Jennifer Kahn | Speaker | TED.com