In The Conversation on Biotechnology, editor Marc Zimmer collects essays from The Conversation U.S. by top scholars and experts in the field, who present a primer on the latest biotechnology research, the overwhelming possibilities it offers, and the risks of its abuse. From an overview of CRISPR technology and gene editing in GMOs to the ethical questions surrounding "designer babies" and other applications of biotechnology in humans, it highlights the major implications biotechnology will bring for health and society. Topics range from the spectacular use of light to fire individual neurons in the brain to making plant-based meats; from curbing diseases with genetically modified mosquitoes to looking back on 40 years of opinions on IVF babies.
Series Editor's Foreword
Part I. Building Blocks of Life
1. What Is mRNA? The Messenger Molecule That's Been in Every Living Cell for Billions of Years Is of Great Interest to Vaccine Developers
2. What Is CRISPR, the Gene Editing Technology That Won the Chemistry Nobel Prize?
3. What Is a Protein? A Biologist Explains
4. Three Ways RNA Is Being Used in the Next Generation of Medical Treatment
5. Why Sequencing the Human Genome Failed to Produce Big Breakthroughs in Disease
6. Editing Genes Shouldn't Be Too Scary—Unless They Are the Ones That Get Passed to Future Generations
7. How Many Genes Does It Take to Make a Person?
8. Everything You Wanted to Know about the First Cloned Mammal—Dolly the Sheep
9. From CRISPR to Glowing Proteins to Optogenetics—Scientists' Most Powerful Technologies Have Been Borrowed from Nature
Part II. Biotechnology, Food, and the Environment
10. What Is Bioengineered Food? An Agriculture Expert Explains
11. Organic Farming with Gene Editing: An Oxymoron or a Tool for Sustainable Agriculture?
12. How We Got to Now: Why the US and Europe Went Different Ways on GMOs
13. Can Genetic Engineering Save Disappearing Forests?
14. How Scientists Make Plant-Based Foods Taste and Look More Like Meat
15. Genetically Modified Mosquitoes May Be the Best Weapon for Curbing Disease Transmission
16. How Engineered Bacteria Could Clean Up Oil Sands Pollution and Mining Waste
Part III. Powerful Tools for Medicine and Health
17. New Gene Therapies May Soon Treat Dozens of Rare Diseases, but Million-Dollar Price Tags Will Put Them out of Reach for Many
18. Engineered Viruses Can Fight the Rise of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
19. Genetic Engineering Transformed Stem Cells into Working Mini-livers That Extended the Life of Mice with Liver Disease
20. We're Creating "Humanized Pigs" in Our Ultraclean Lab to Study Human Illnesses and Treatments
21. When Researchers Don't Have the Proteins They Need, They Can Get AI to "Hallucinate" New Structures
22. Living Drugs: Engineering Bacteria to Treat Genetic Diseases
23. How Gene-Editing a Person's Brain Cells Could Be Used to Curb the Opioid Epidemic
24. CRISPR Can Help Combat the Troubling Immune Response against Gene Therapy
25. 3D-Printed Organs Could Save Lives by Addressing the Transplant Shortage
26. From Marmots to Mole-Rats to Marmosets—Studying Many Genes in Many Animals Is Key to Understanding How Humans Can Live Longer
Part IV. Genetic Frontiers and Ethics
27. Scared of CRISPR? 45 Years on, IVF Shows How Fears of New Medical Technology Can Fade
28. How Can a Baby Have 3 Parents?
29. Ethicists Need More Flexible Tools for Evaluating Gene-Edited Food
30. Lab-Grown Embryos and Human-Monkey Hybrids: Medical Marvels or Ethical Missteps?
31. Those Designer Babies Everyone Is Freaking Out about Are Not Likely to Happen
32. Bioweapons Research Is Banned by an International Treaty—but Nobody Is Checking for Violations
33. From Coronavirus Tests to Open-Source Insulin and Beyond, "Biohackers" Are Showing the Power of DIY Science
Marc Zimmer (Waterford, CT) is the Jean C. Tempel '65 Professor of Chemistry at Connecticut College and the author of The State of Science: What the Future Holds and the Scientists Making It Happen, Glowing Genes: A Revolution in Biotechnology, Illuminating Diseases: An Introduction to Green Fluorescent Proteins, and four books for young adults. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times.
- Nathan Ahlgren
- Ivan Anishchenko
- Trine Antonsen
- Jennifer Barfield
- Pedro Belda-Ferre
- Ari Berkowitz
- Adeline Boettcher
- Jason Delbourne
- Kevin Doxzen
- Mo Ebrahimkhani
- Eleanor Feingold
- J. Benjamin Hurlbut
- Cecile Janssens
- Samira Kiani
- Amanda Kowalczyk
- Mariana Lamas
- Andrew Lapworth
- Rebecca Mackelprang
- Kathleen Merrigan
- Saman Naghieh
- Sean Nee
- Dimitri Perrin
- Christopher Preston
- Jason Rasgon
- Penny Riggs
- Jason Robert
- Oliver Rogoyski
- Gary Samore
- Sahotra Sarkar
- George E. Seidel
- Patricia A. Stapleton
- Craig W. Stevens
- Paul B. Thompson
- Christopher Tuggle
- Vikramaditya G. Yadav
- Marc Zimmer
"I'm very glad to see this volume delineate the difference between repairing existing people with genetic intervention and creating designer babies with heritable changes to the germ line. It's a distinction that too often gets lost but could spell the difference between an ongoing humanity and [...] something else."
– Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
"This collection is a breath of fresh air in a time of widespread misinformation regarding the basic tenets of biology and their applications in biotechnology and medicine. These essays cover an immense swath of cutting-edge biotech space and go far beyond introducing readers to buzzworthy terminology, like mRNA vaccines, CRISPR, and AI; they impart a critical deeper understanding of the underlying biology and bioethical concerns. Written by domain experts in a manner that is unfailingly approachable, this collection is a conversation no one should miss."
– Rita Strack, Senior Editor, Nature Methods
"Big impacts can come from learning about the workings of life at the smallest scales. This book collects clear explanations about biotechnology from experts, allowing us all to get on the same page."
– Jeffrey W. Savell, Vice Chancellor and Dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University System