A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution
This book is a tale of discovery, a lesson in the intricate biological and genetic processes that make up life, and a dire caution. In 2015, a small group of researchers announced that they had used recent discoveries in biology and genetics to invent a ground breaking process in genetic manipulation. They then proceeded to warn the world off using the new techniques without considerable thought and societal and government buy in and oversight. The words of caution are no wonder, since the gene editing invention outlined in this book has been described as the greatest discovery since the splitting of the atom. Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues have discovered a relatively inexpensive way to edit the code of life with such precision and ease that the technique has been likened to a text editor for genes. Using CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology, the author and her colleagues have managed to unlock the power of creation. The science is shockingly simple to understand and the fact that this technique can be used without the need for billions in research grants or government level resources, should really give everyone pause. The book does a great job of describing the story of how Doudna and her team invented the process. Once I fully grasped how ridiculously easy it is to understand the actual mechanics and concepts involved, I was at first overwhelmed by the incredible benefit this technology can have for the treatment of disease. As Doudna described her own initial delight that smaller, less well funded labs could experiment with the technique and advance the methods, I started to worry about the potential misuse of this awesome power. This was just about when I arrived at the point in the book where the authors chose to issue stern warnings about the frivolous use of this, their technology. If you are fascinated by biology and genetics, obviously, this will be a fun read for you. Folks with interest in current ethical dilemmas in science and technology will also find this book to be instructive and informative, if just a little scary.