Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever – CRISPR

magine you were alive back in the 1980’s, and were told that computers would soon take over everything: from shopping, to dating, and the stock market, that billions of people would be connected via a kind of web, that you would own a handheld device, orders of magnitudes more powerful than supercomputers. It would seem absurd, but then, all of it happened. Science fiction became our reality, and we don’t even think about it. We’re at a similar point today with genetic engineering. So, let’s talk about it. Where it came from, what we’re doing right now, and about a recent breakthrough, that will change how we live and what we perceive as normal, forever. Humans have been engineering life for thousands of years. Through selective breeding, we strengthened useful traits in plants and animals. We became very good at this, but never fully understood how it worked. Until we discovered the code of life, Deoxyribonucleic Acid—DNA. A complex molecule that guides the growth, development, function, and reproduction of everything alive. Information is encoded in the structure of the molecule. Four nucleotides are paired and make up a code that carries instructions. Change the instructions and you change the being carrying it. As soon as DNA was discovered, people tried to tinker with it. In the 1960’s, scientist bombarded plants with radiation to cause random mutations in the genetic code. The idea was to get a useful plant variation by pure chance. Sometimes it actually worked too. In the 70’s, scientists inserted DNA
snippets into bacteria, plants, and animals to study and modify them for
research, medicine, agriculture, and for fun. The earliest genetically modified animal
was born in 1974, making mice a standard tool for research, saving millions of lives. In the 80’s, we got commercial. The first patent was given for a microbe engineered to absorb oil. Today we produce many chemicals by means of engineered life, like life-saving clotting factors, growth hormones, and insulin. All things we had to harvest from the organs of animals before that. The first food modified in the lab went on sale in 1994: the Flavr Savr tomato, a tomato given a much longer shelf life where an extra gene that suppresses the build-up of a rotting enzyme. But GM food and the controversy surrounding them deserve a video of their own. In the 1990’s, there was also a brief
foray into human engineering. To treat maternal infertility, babies were made that carried genetic information from 3 humans. Making them the first humans ever to have 3 genetic parents. Today there are super muscled pigs, fast-growing salmon, featherless chicken, and see-through frogs. On the fun side, we made things glow in the dark. Fluorescent zebrafish are available for
as little as ten dollars. All of this is already very impressive, but until recently gene editing was extremely expensive,
complicated, and took a long time to do. This has now changed with a revolutionary new technology now entering the stage—CRISPR. Overnight, the costs of engineering have shrunk by 99 %. Instead of a year, it takes a few weeks to conduct experiments, and basically everybody with a lab can do it. It’s hard to get across how big a technical revolution CRISPR is. It literally has the potential to change humanity forever. Why did this sudden revolution happen and how does it work? Bacteria and viruses have been fighting
since the dawn of life. So-called bacteriophages or phages hunt bacteria. In the ocean, phages kill 40 % of them every single day. Phages do this by inserting their own genetic code into the bacteria and taking them over to use them as factories. The bacteria tried to resist but failed most the time because their protection tools are too weak, But sometimes bacteria survive an attack. Only if they do so can they activate their most effective antivirus system: they save a part of the virus DNA in their own genetic code in a DNA archive called CRISPR. Here it’s stored safely until it’s needed. When the virus attacks again, the bacterium quickly makes an RNA copy from the DNA archive and arms a secret weapon—a protein called CAS9. The protein now scans the bacterium’s
insides for signs of the virus invader by comparing every bit of DNA it finds to the sample from the archive. When it finds a 100-percent perfect match, it’s activated and cuts out the virus
DNA, making it useless, protecting the bacterium against the attack. What’s special is that CAS9 is very
precise, almost like a DNA surgeon. The revolution began when scientists figured out that the CRISPR system is programmable. You can just give it a copy of DNA you want to modify and put the system into a living cell. If the old techniques of genetic manipulation were like a map, CRISPR is like a GPS system. Aside from being precise, cheap, and easy, CRISPR offers the ability to edit live cells, to switch genes on and off, and target and study particular DNA sequences. It also works for every type of cell: microorganisms, plants, animals, or humans. But despite the revolution CRISPR is for science, it’s still just a first generation tool. More precise tools are already being created and used as we speak. In 2015, scientists use CRISPR to cut the HIV virus out of living cells from patients in the lab, proving that it was possible. Only about a year later, they carried out a larger scale project with rats that had the HIV virus in basically all of their body cells. By simply injecting CRISPR into the rats tails, they were able to remove more than 50 %
of the virus from cells all over the body. In a few decades, a CRISPR therapy
might cure HIV and other retroviruses, viruses that hide inside human DNA like
Herpes could be eradicated this way. CRISPR could also defeat one of our worst enemies—cancer. Cancer occurs when cells refuse to die and keep multiplying while concealing themselves from the immune system. CRISPR gives us the means to edit your immune cells and make them better cancer hunters. Getting rid of cancer might eventually mean getting just a couple of injections of a
few thousand of your own cells that have been engineered in the lab to heal you for good. The first clinical trial for a CRISPR cancer treatment on human patients was approved in early 2016 in the
US. Not even a month later, Chinese scientists announced that they would treat lung cancer patients with immune cells modified with CRISPR in August 2016. Things are picking up pace quickly. And then there are genetic diseases. There are thousands of them and they range from mildly annoying to deadly or entail decades of suffering. With a powerful tool like CRISPR, we may be able to end this. Over 3,000 genetic diseases are caused by a single incorrect letter in your DNA. We are already building a modified
version of CAS9 that is made to change just a single letter, fixing the disease in the cell. In a decade or two, we could possibly cure thousands of diseases forever. But all of these medical applications have one thing in common: they are limited to the individual and die with them, except if you use them on reproductive cells or very early embryos. But CRISPR can and probably will be used for much more: the creation of modified humans—designer babies—and will mean gradual, but irreversible changes to the human gene pool. The means to edit the genome of a human embryo already exists. Though the technology is still in its early stages, but it has already been attempted twice. In 2015 and 2016, Chinese scientists experimented with human embryos and were partially successful on their second attempt. They showed the enormous challenges we still face in gene editing embryos, but also that scientists are
working on solving them. This is like the computer in the 70’s. There will be better computers. Regardless of your personal take on
genetic engineering, it will affect you. Modified humans could alter the genome of our entire species, because their engineered traits will be passed on to their children and could spread over generations, slowly modifying the whole gene pool of humanity. It will start slowly. The first designer babies will not be overly designed. It’s most likely that they will be created to eliminate a deadly genetic disease running in a family. As the technology progresses and gets
more refined, more and more people may argue that not using genetic modification is unethical, because it condemns children to preventable suffering and death and denies them the cure. But as soon as the first engineered kid is born, a door is opened that can’t be closed anymore. Early on, vanity traits will mostly be left alone. But as genetic modification becomes more accepted and our knowledge of our genetic code enhances, the temptation will grow. If you make your offspring immune to Alzheimer, why not also give them an enhanced metabolism? Why not throw in perfect eyesight? How about height or muscular structure? Full hair? How about giving your child the gift of
extraordinary intelligence? Huge changes are made as a result of the personal decisions of millions of individuals that accumulate. This is a slippery slope. Modified humans could become the new standard. But as engineering becomes more
normal and our knowledge improves, we could solve the single biggest mortality risk factor: aging. Two-thirds of the 150,000 people who died today will die of age-related causes. Currently we think aging is caused by the accumulation of damage to our cells, like DNA breaks and the systems responsible for fixing those wearing off over time. But there are also genes that directly affect aging. A combination of genetic engineering and other therapy could stop or slow down aging, maybe even reverse it. We know from nature that there are animals immune to aging. Maybe we could even borrow a few genes for ourselves. Some scientists even think biological aging could be something that eventually just stops being a thing. We would still die at some point, but instead of doing so in hospitals at age 90, we might be able to spend a few thousand years with our loved ones. Research into this is in its infancy, and many scientists are rightly skeptical about the end of aging. The challenges are enormous and maybe it is unachievable, but it is conceivable the people alive today might be the first to profit from effective anti aging therapy. All we might need is for someone to convince a smart billionaire to make it their next problem to solve. On a bigger scale, we certainly could solve many problems by having a modified population. Engineered humans might be better equipped to cope with high-energy food, eliminating many diseases of civilization like obesity. In possession of a modified immune system, with a library of potential threats, we might become immune to most diseases that haunt us today. Even further into the future, we could engineer humans to be equipped for extended space travel and to cope with different conditions on another planets, which would be extremely helpful in
keeping us alive in our hostile universe. Still, a few major challenges await us: some technological, some ethical. Many of you watching will feel uncomfortable and fear that we will create a world in which we will reject non-perfect humans and pre-select features and qualities based on our idea of what’s healthy. The thing is we are already living in
this world. Tests for dozens of genetic diseases or complications have become standard for pregnant women in much of the world. Often the mere suspicion of a genetic defect can lead to the end of a pregnancy. Take Down syndrome for example, one of the most common genetic defects. In Europe, about 92 % of all pregnancies where it’s detected are terminated. The decision to terminate pregnancy is incredibly personal, but it’s important to acknowledge the reality that we are pre-selecting humans based on medical conditions. There is also no use in pretending this will change, so we have to act carefully and respectfully as we advance the technology and can make more and more
selections. But none of this will happen soon. As powerful as CRISPR is—and it is, it’s not infallible yet. Wrong edits still happen as well as unknown errors that can occur anywhere in the DNA and might go unnoticed. The gene edit might achieve the desired result—disabling a disease, but also might accidentally trigger unwanted changes. We just don’t know enough yet about the
complex interplay of our genes to avoid unpredictable consequences. Working on accuracy and monitoring methods is a major concern as the first human trials begin. And since we’ve discussed a possible positive future, there are darker visions too. Imagine what a state like North Korea
could do if they embraced genetic engineering. Could a state cement its rule forever by forcing gene editing on their subjects? What would stop a totalitarian regime from engineering an army of modified super soldiers? It is doable in theory. Scenarios like this one are far, far off into the future, if they ever become possible at all. But the basic proof of concept for genetic engineering like this already exists today. The technology really is that powerful. While this might be a tempting reason to ban genetic editing and related research, that would certainly be a mistake. Banning human genetic engineering would only lead to the science wandering off to a place with jurisdiction and rules
that we are uncomfortable with. Only by participating can we make sure that further research is guided by caution, reason, oversight, and transparency. Do you feel uncomfortable now? Most of us have something wrong with them. In the future that lies ahead of us, would we have been allowed to exist? The technology is certainly a bit scary, but we have a lot to gain, and genetic engineering might just be a step in the natural evolution of intelligent species in the universe. We might end disease. We could extend our life expectancy by centuries and travel to the stars. There’s no need to think small when it comes to this topic. Whatever your opinion on genetic engineering, the future is approaching no matter what. What has been insane science fiction is about to become our new reality, a reality full of opportunities and challenges. Videos like this would not be possible without viewer donations on If you want to support to explaining complicated stuff and maybe get your own bird in return, you can do so here. If you want to learn more about CRISPR, we put the sources and further reading in the description. More videos about the whole topic area will follow. If you want to be notified when it happens, you can follow us here.

100 thoughts on “Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever – CRISPR”

  1. > I want the Chinese PLA have as many designer babies as they want. And, of course, I want to keep one for myself !!!

  2. I'm a boy who believes in immortality achieved by anti-aging. I seeked for many scientific solutions but all the solutions I found on the internet and figured out on my own were so prototype or unreachable technology. I was about to give up and live a depressed life waiting for inevitable death.
    And this video, especially the part about aging, literally made my life hopeful again. I now can believe that the humanity would make it in my lifespan.
    Thank you Kurzgesagt. Appreciate your work all the time. You saved me. Thank you.

  3. another great video! I just recently learned about CRISPR, for reasons of trying to improve plant breeding, but now im just overall interested in the subject itself. I have to say that I also agree with the guy that started the odin, I am more afraid of a future where im surrounded by genetic modifications and I have no knowledge or control of it, cause one way or another its gonna happen.

    Reminds me of a metaphor. You can stand against the river and be swept up by it or flow with it and control where you end up.

  4. This video is alredy old but I think you forgot to talk about hybrids and eugenics -what could bring slavery again. I can imagine superhumans leading hordes of human-pig… or just… humans…

  5. One of the biggest challenge of gene modification is "Protein Folding" problem. Solving the problem can help us understand the mechanism and make gene modification safer. However, the problem has been proved as a NP-complete problem, which means it is hard to be solved by the common computer and algorithm.

  6. I want to become a genetic engineer. Specifically, I want to work with plant GMOs. Is going into bioengineering a good idea? I’ve heard that bioengineering is more about systems and machines but I want to just work with DNA. I don’t want to go into molecular genetics because the job opportunities are really low. Is bioengineering a good option then?

  7. I'm so glad that I'm not going to be alive when being smart, beautiful, talented, etc. Is for sale and will belong to the children of most untalented inhumane people alive today!

  8. @13:54 imagine what a state like the United States could do with this technology! Without it, it has ruined the world, let alone with it!!!

  9. …and we all live happily ever after.

    Sure. The only thing Soros and his globalist pals aren't telling you is that there's going to have to be a bit of a population 'reduction'…maybe a few billion or so.

    Crazy, I know; evil, I know, but that's elitist the game plan. Whether they're actual Satanists…who knows, but does it matter?

  10. We should never do the Live forever priject because if we live for like 1 thousand more years earth will be very populated and can lead to over population

  11. We talk about eradicating diseases and prolonging our lifespan like it's a good thing. I'm actually terrified by this idea.
    We should wait until humanity has spread to other planets to use this technology. Earth is already at its limit of how many lives it can support and I blame humanity's advanced medical and pharmaceutical technology.
    We talk about death like it's a bad thing, but imagine a world without death: an ever growing population with a steady (not growing) supply of resources. This can only end badly.
    Diseases and ageing are nature's way of keeping things in balance (more diseases in more densely populated areas). This prevents overpopulation, which in turn would lead to shortages of food and water. Only if for some reason humans stopped reproducing would it make sense to eradicate death.
    We keep raising our average life expectancy (70-80 years vs 30-40 prior 1900) and keep turning a blind eye to all the problems it causes. I'm not saying it's not sad when somebody dies, but it's part of the cycle of life, and removing that has consequences.

  12. So now I can write a no magic AU fic where Voldemort is still immortal! Harry just has to find and destroy 7 bits of voldy’s DNA… ok bye…

  13. Of all the things this video has said, the only thing that disgusts me is the idea of not aging. There are seven billion people on the planet, and the breeders in the modernized countries still won't stop having multiple kids! We sure as hell don't need people living even longer and being viable thereby for even longer, overburdening the planet further. Aging should definitely not be cured.

  14. "Some smart billionaire"…

    Elon musk. If you do this, we can get you the genetically engineered cat-girls you wanted for christmas!

  15. CRISPER is by far the biggest breakthrough in genetic engineering in history, but it’s not a miracle cure. It doesn’t work well on fully grown humans. If injected it can only make edits in a small portion of your cells, but would need to change the DNA of every target cell to fully cure a disease or change a genotype/phenotype.

    It does work miracles on single felled embryos. Because there is only one cell, all changes are permanent, can be observed, 100% efficient, and will be transferred to every cell in the developing offspring as it divides. This makes in-vitro fertilization the way to go because you can modify a few dozen zygotes until you get it right, then implant it for birth.

    Unfortunately, embryonic modification is illegal in the US in all forms, even curing genetic diseases. In my opinion, this is a disservice to all future children, even if we do end up with designer babies in the future.

  16. I agree on using this to stop genetic diseases and others, but we shouldn't do anything other than that.

    This project will defy forces of nature, it'll ruin everything in my opinion. In a world where everyone is perfect and will look down on the "failed designer babies" scares me. A world where everyone is strong, smart and healthy. And the people who aren't designer babies are picked on, and they're too weak to fight back. A world where the parents expect brilliance from "their" creation. A world where students in a class room get the same marks, and where the word "perfect" is taken advantage of and ruined.

    Even if only the genetic diseases part comes out, I bet you. Others will do illegal things with the babies and make this scary reality become truth behind the backs of the police. It's society. You make a law, they break it.
    Start a business about it behind the governments back and make everyone "perfect."

    The world really was better off imperfect, humans should be able to be what they want to be. Not what their parents want them to be.
    Thinking about this makes me want to go backwards. Tell me what you guys think.

  17. "..Maybe we could convince a billionaire that it's profitable.."
    Or maybe we can convince a worldwide civilization that billionaires (and prioritizing profit$-motives over anything/everything else) are antithetical to our overall health, happiness, and survival as a species?

  18. Random genetic traits ,or focused improvements!!

    Smarter/faster/longer lives/the end of obesity/the end of most if not all disease!!

    I think a focused improvements is the best way to go!

    My wife and I had our twins through IVF in 2008,in our late 40s.

  19. Immortality in terms of aging should only be given to those who deserve to live for much longer, I.e. people who are extremely valuable, scientists, engineers, an actual good leader, etc

  20. Unless you make omega braains too, your brain will fill up and stop functioning much sooner than the time of your death.

  21. why not use special genetics to make kids with 3 lungs, 2 hearts, give them surgically intergrated armor, rifles that fire a rocket propelled bullet that explodes upon impact, we shall call them thunder warriors

  22. can we just stop to think of overpopulation? if we eliminate cancer and old age and all of these other diseases, how bad will overpopulation become?

  23. We may be able to use it to get ride of disease, but the anti-vaxxers will allow those diseases to come back and kill us.

    Mark my fuh king words.

  24. The earth can't sustain the numbers of morons in existence and to think of immortality…. surely we are doomed!

  25. I kinda don’t want to. It’s like the utopia depression sorta thing. No problems is basically numbness. Nothing special no flaws. Babies will grow up perfect guaranteed. Living for a thousand years would bore humans. Insanity would probably go unnoticed and common,

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