Code Breaker

Recommendation: 8.8/10

Summary:

Gene editing is farther along , and easier, than I realized.

Following the scientific discovery of DNA editing, primarily from the pioneering perspective of Dr. Jennifer Doudna, the first half of the book details the science and politics among labs, and then turns to moral implications and modern advances.

CRISPR, which is literally describing the process for editing DNA, was an unintentional discovery found from discovering how bacteria fights off viruses.

Phages, a word which may stir memory from early biology classes, number a trillion phages for every grain of sand. This poses an incredible amount of risk for the human race, making DNA editing a possible tool for enormous good.

However, beyond just defending against viruses, genome engineering has implications to plants, increasing resistant to harsh climates, system biology, making changes in genomes of organisms to produce various kinds of chemical that can be difficult to obtain in other ways.

The great promise of gene editing is that it will transform medicine. The peril is that it will widen the healthcare divide between rich and poor.

Not everything needs to be decided right away. We can begin by asking what type of world we want to leave for our children. Then we can feel our way together, step by step, preferably in hand.

Like most good books, I left with more questions than answers.

Highlights:

How do we distinguish between traits that are true disabilities and ones that are disabilities mainly because society is not good at adapting for them?

Using gene editing to prevent disabilities may make society less diverse and creative.

There is little understanding of how human psychology influenced by genetic disposition.

If one parent has sickle cell and other does not, the kid develops an immunity showing that genes play multiple roles and have multiple reasons for existing.

Viruses containing RNA (COVID) can insert genetic material into DNA of host cell through “reverse transcription.”

Genomic Predictions is a company that provides IVF couples with additional genetic information when picking an embryo to increase the odds of good health. They do not screen for high IQ but provide risk scores for polygenic traits related to diseases.

There’s a movement to create millions of amateur bioengineers. Citizen scientist to identify how to deploy real time detection methods and crowd source collection and analysis of data.

Edits to your germ line are passed down to descendants, whereas somatic editing is not. However, somatic editing can only be used on specific kinds of cells, is expensive, and may not be permanent

In top research journals, women are 21% less likely to use positive or self promoting words.

Competition for patents undermines collaboration.

The key to true curiosity is pausing to ponder the causes.

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