Genetic Engineering and Diseases – Gene Drive & Malaria


What if you could use genetic
engineering to stop humanity’s most dangerous predator, the deadliest animal on the planet responsible for the death of billions, the mighty mosquito? Along
with other diseases it plays host to Malaria, one of the cruelest parasites on Earth possibly the single biggest killer of
humans in history. In 2015 alone hundreds of millions were infected and almost half a million people died. A new technology could help us eradicate Malaria forever, but to do so we need to engineer a whole animal population. This is not a hypothetical problem, the
modified mosquitoes already exist in a lab. Should we use the technology, and is
malaria bad enough to risk it? (Intro Music) Malaria is caused by a group of
microorganisms: Plasmodia, very weird microorganisms that consists of just a single-cell, they’re parasites that completely rely on mosquitoes. Malaria always starts with an insect bite. In it’s salivary glands, thousands of sporozoites wait until the insect penetrates your skin, immediately after invading you they head for the liver where they quietly enter big cells and hide from the immune system. For up to a month they stay here in stealth mode consuming the cells
alive and changing into their next form: small drop like merozoites, they multiply generating thousands of themselves and then burst out of the cells. So thousands
of parasites head into the bloodstream to look for their next victims, Red blood
cells, to stay unnoticed, they wrap themselves in the membranes of the cells
they killed. Imagine that! Killing someone from the inside and then taking their
skin as camouflage, brutal! They now violently attack red blood cells,
multiplying inside them until they burst then finding more red blood cells and
this cycle repeats over and over. Pieces of dead cells spread lots of toxic waste
material, which activates a powerful immune response causing flu-like
symptoms, among the symptoms are high fever, sweats and chills, convulsions,
headaches and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. If malaria breaches the
blood-brain barrier it can cause coma, neurological damage or death. The
parasites are ready for evacuation now. When another mosquito bites the infected
human they get a ride, the cycle can start over. In 2015, the Zika virus, which
causes horrible birth defects if it infects pregnant women, spread rapidly
into new areas around the globe. It too is carried by a mosquito. The mosquito is the
perfect carrier for human diseases they’ve been around for at least 200
million years. There are trillions of them and a single one can lay up to 300
eggs at a time. They are practically impossible to eradicate and the perfect
parasite taxi. But today we have a new revolutionary technology, that could
enable us to finally win the war against them; CRISPR. For the first time
in human history, we have the tools to make fast, large-scale changes to entire
species, changing their genetic information as we please. So instead of attacking isolated groups
of insects, why not just change the types that transmit diseases? Using genetic engineering, scientists successfully created a strain of
mosquitoes that are immune to the malaria parasite by adding a new
antibody gene that specifically targets plasmodium. These mosquitoes will never
spread malaria. But just changing genetic information is not enough. The edits
would only be inherited by half the offspring because most genes have two
versions inside the genome as a fail-safe. So after just two generations,
at most only half of the offspring would carry the engineered gene. In a population
of billions of mosquitoes they would hardly make a difference. A genetic engineering method called the gene drive solves this problem. It forces the new gene to become
dominant in the following generations overpowering the old gene almost
completely. Thanks to this twist, 99.5% of all
the engineered mosquitoes offspring will carry the anti-malaria edit. If we were
to release enough engineered mosquitoes into the wild to mate with normal mosquitoes,
the malaria blocking gene would spread extremely quickly. As the new gene becomes a permanent feature of the mosquito population, Plasmodium would
lose its home base. Scientists hope that the change would be
so fast that they could not adapt to it quickly enough. Malaria could virtually
disappear. If you take into account that maybe half a million children are killed
by it every year, about five have died since this video started. Some scientists
argue that we should use the technology sooner, rather than later. The mosquitoes themselves would probably
only profit from this, they don’t have anything to gain from carrying parasites
and this might only be the first step Malaria might just be the beginning. Different mosquitoes also carry Dengue fever and Zika, ticks transmit Lyme
disease, flies transmit sleeping sickness fleas transmit the plague. We could save
millions of lives and prevent suffering on an unbelievable scale. So, why haven’t we
done this yet? For one, CRISPR editing is barely four years old, so until very
recently we just couldn’t do it as fast and easily. And there are valid concerns. Never before have humans consciously
changed the genetic code of a free-living organism on this scale. Once we do it, there is no going back. So it has to be
done right, because there could be unwanted consequences if we set out to
edit nature. In this specific case of malaria though,
the risk might be acceptable since the genetic modification doesn’t
make a big change in the overall genome. It only changes a very specific part. The worst-case scenario here, is probably that it might not work or that the
parasite adapts in a negative way. There is still much debate. Technology as powerful as gene drive, needs to be handled with a lot of care but at some
point we have to ask ourselves: Is it unethical to not use this technology,
when every day 1,000 children die. Humanity has to decide how to act on
this in the next few years. The public discussion is way behind the technology
in this case. What do you think? This video was made possible in part by
viewer donations on Patreon. If you want to help us make more videos like this
and get nice rewards in return you can do so here. We really appreciate it. If
you want to learn more about the topic of genetic engineering, we have another
video about CRISPR and GMOs, and in case that’s too much biology for you, here’s a
space playlist.

100 thoughts on “Genetic Engineering and Diseases – Gene Drive & Malaria”

  1. If the african children didnt die from malaria theyed die from starvation or from their tyranical socialist governments.

  2. But, what if, Humanity manages to eradicate almost all diseases ever known and discovered, then our descendants' immune systems would be next to useless after a millenia or two. That would simply be a disaster in waiting considering there are ancient microbes and viruses trapped under the ice caps of the north and south poles waiting to be released (assuming the next generations do nothing to stop/slow down Global Warming).

  3. This may sound cold, but we really are not at the right point as a species yet to be messing with things like this. Here’s the cold part, death is an essential part of nature. As are all of the natural forms it comes in. Especially disease. I’m not saying that it’s good so many people die from malaria. But if we are going to put such a large amount of research into saving lives, we need to put an equal or greater amount of research towards new habitats for us as well. Like mars, or the moon, or even just plain old space. Earth can only support so much, it only has so many resources, and we can’t keep messing with its mechanisms of maintaining the environment. Unless we are going to also provide support for our niche. Earth is like a brewing carboy. You add yeast and watch it ferment the sugar into alcohol as a waste product. But eventually the yeast will produce so much alcohol that it kills it’s entire population in the carboy. We are the yeast in this case. Don’t get me wrong, It’s great that we are saving so many lives. In fact, without modern medicine I would have died from strep B as a baby.. but we need to make sure we also have places for all of the lives we are saving. Otherwise it’s counterproductive, maybe even cruel. Because you are saving lives just so they may eventually die from the horrifying results of overpopulation. So to anybody who opposes us colonizing other planets, you should also be opposing medical advancement. Because they 100% go hand in hand. By all means, exterminate malaria. But let’s build some freaking awesome moon colonies and mars colonies too. So we can keep on growing, keep on learning, and keep on being amazing. And at the same time, not being forced to destroy other life on earth just so we can sustain ourselves.. because that will end badly for everyone. Especially us.

  4. Kurzgesagt: "you decide!"
    Me: estracts the sword and proceeds to extinguish malaria "for Motherland!!! 🌍🌎🌏

  5. So Plasmodia is Similar to Bacteriophage?
    ,Because they have the same skills to Attack a cell
    By multiplying inside of it and bursting out.

  6. So Plasmodia is Similar to Bacteriophage?
    ,Because they have the same skills to Attack a cell
    By multiplying inside of it and bursting out.

  7. My idea is to sell anti bug spray that effects all flying insects (Wasps Bess and bugs like that will not be effected)Have it sell everywhere there are bad bugs and have a tradition done every year which people would spray it in their houses and on the street fore 1 day.

  8. Malaria leader: our biggest enemy is Humans… Invade them and destroy them.

    Malarias: Yeessss we must protect ourselves, our land and our existence.

    Malaria leader: Here is ur mosquito airplane. Invade them!

  9. Malaria Parasites: goes in red blood cells and explodes the cell
    Phages: Kills bacteria by going into the cells and exploding the cell
    Also Phages: leme just copyright strike this dude

  10. I say, use crisper now on mosquitos. we really need to take action and try to help the spread of malaria and other horrible things. sorry mosquitos but u have to change

  11. Also note folks: as not mentioned in video, we can also ERADICATE MOSQUITOES entirely, by releasing females that bear no offspring.

  12. Just create a third type of mosquito that stands as a backup, so if something goes wrong with the anti-malaria ones, you can free these other mosquitos which are basically normal mosquito with a more dominant genes so everything will turn back to normal. Ooooooorrrr we could just burn them to death.

  13. very bad idea, all technologies have unintended consequences. We're destroying our planet partly because we think that the next "upgrade" and children are the only keys to happiness. Death is a part of life. Enjoy the ride… having said that i am looking at this mosquito bite with some fear now… guess i'm only human

  14. Nature has it's way of trying to control overpopulation. For insects it uses fungi and for us it's malaria and a whole brunch of other things. How would this affect the world's population if crispr would be used on a lot of diseases/parasites etc.?

  15. to those wondering if bacteriophages could work against malaria:

    malaria is caused by plasmodium, which is a species of protozoa (eukaryotic parasitic cells). Bacteriophages can only infect and kill…well bacteria, which are prokaryotes. So sadly bacteriophages will just ignore plasmodium.

  16. Can‘t they adjust themselves some years later like Bacteria did with antibiotic…
    Then we‘re definetely f***ed up

  17. I think that’s a really cool looking sword

    But seriously though I think it’s worth the risk and I know to won’t be easy to go back if things go wrong but that’s how we learn, as long as there are still people left to learn

  18. the reason so many people die from malaria is because it spreads in third world shitholes that haven't invented their first wheel yet. If you erradicate malaria, the people who live their are probably gonna end up creating a new worse disease by just existing.

  19. 6:34
    the public should not have anything to do with genes changes.
    poeple are still affrayed of gmo if you forgot. (because it's not *NATURAL*)
    only poeple how know what they are talking about should matter

  20. As someone who kills mosquitoes for a living for the last 5 years….Jesus man make it so they dont produce so many offspring please? Im dying out here in this heat!

  21. Them: Is it really worth it to set loose genrtically modigied mosquitos? What are the consequences?
    Me: Kill them all, no matter what it takes!!

  22. We don't know what will happen and we can't know unless we try. If later our regrets are at a minimum, than good for us, and if not, at least we'll die trying. Isn't that better than letting another cople miliion people die just because we're afraid of taking a minor risk?

  23. Apparently this vid exploded earlier this year. Ended up doing a project on CRISPR 2 years back, but my understanding of the approach to this at the time was to create mosquitoes that couldn't breed. My particular project ended up focusing on trying to remove invasive species entirely by introducing mutations that makes males more attractive and infertile while females remained fertile with gene drive. It seemed relatively sound besides having to change legislation around capture to facilitate spreading it.

    One thing I stumbled on while doing research was that it's extremely problematic for a gene drive to fail; it behaves much like surviving an infection, and it becomes extremely difficult to spread the drive to that organism or even its offspring. On the other hand, changing multiple genes for the purpose of driving one trait (I think the term was multiplexing) lets the success rate go much higher, to the tune of a 13-14-fold version could reasonably spread through the entirety of Africa's mosquito population without failing.

    I should look this stuff up again, though.

  24. 6.00
    Bloodlust: unabated
    Itchiness: unaffected
    Cuteness: unharmed
    Nuisance: same same
    Buzz: still there
    Malaria: gone!

    I LOVE THE ANIMATION MORE THAN I ALREADY HAVE.

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