For millennia, humans have been harnessing microbes to produce everything from breads, to cheeses, to alcohol. Now these tiny organisms have produced another powerful revolution — the gene editing tool CRISPR. Rodolphe Barrangou, Ph.D., was working at the food company Danisco, where he was trying to produce yogurt lines resistant to contamination. In a series of groundbreaking experiments, he helped uncover what CRISPR was, how it worked, and why it could be so transformative.
What makes CRISPR -Cas9 such a groundbreaking genome editing tool? Hear from CRISPR-Cas9 pioneer Feng Zhang, Ph.D., who shares not only what makes the tool so unique and how it works but also his personal journey into science, which began with the film Jurassic Park. Zhang, who engineered the CRISPR-Cas9 system to work in human cells, is now using the tool to understand and treat human diseases, such as neurological disorders. In this short film, he compares CRISPR-Cas9 to past available genome-editing tools, including zinc finger and transcription activator-like effector (TALE) nucleases.
Did humans domesticate plants, or did they domesticate us? Archaeologists at Çatalhöyük, a 9,000-year-old site in Turkey, offer lessons on how agriculture and other major innovations can yield unexpected long-term consequences for human society and the world around us.
Fire is a force for destruction, but also of rebirth. This vivid lesson is at the heart of Fire Among Giants, a provocative and intimate look at a world famous forest in the wake of the most destructive inferno on record. The ancient redwoods of California’s Big Basin State Park have witnessed centuries of change, and now they will stand sentinel over a landscape forced to rebound in a rapidly warming climate.
In The Century of Biology, noted bioethicist R. Alta Charo ponders the ever-shifting interrelationship between humans and nature. The power of CRISPR and genome editing fundamentally reshapes the realm of the possible, as humans can manipulate life with precision on the molecular level. What we will do with this power is a question that far exceeds the limits of biology and touches on what kind of future we hope for, or fear.
Coral reefs are truly magnificent ecosystems that support an abundance of marine life. Sadly, climate change is the biggest threat to coral reefs. As oceans warm, corals experience heat stress and become “bleached” as a result of the algae expelling from their tissues. Can we use modern genetic tools, like CRISPR-Cas9, as a way to help us understand coral biology and perhaps make corals more adaptive to climate change?
Dr. Tshaka Cunningham is a molecular biologist and a Black man of faith. In this short film, the Science Communication Lab explores Dr. Cunningham’s personal and professional identities, and how they unite to help him promote community health through personal genomics.
In this short film, we explore the complicated question of using biotechnology to make forests more resistant to climate change. We look to the story of the American Chestnut as an example of how scientists are trying to bring a once-abundant tree back from near extinction through genetic engineering. We also consider the budding genome-editing technology CRISPR Cas-9 as a more precise tool with great promise but also great uncertainty. Can we do it and should we do it? This short film is the second video of a 2-part series called “The Future of Forests.”
What does a redwood forest look like, and sound like, in the wake of a devastating fire? See a forest in a new way in this new cinematic short from the Science Communication Lab. Walk through a fire-ravaged redwood forest with experts Beatrix Jiménez, a Land Stewardship Associate at the Sempervirens Fund, Ian Bornarth, a Bay Area-based photographer documenting post-fire recovery, and Alex Jones, the UC Santa Cruz Campus Natural Reserve Manager. Their observations make visible the forces of destruction and regrowth throughout the redwoods ecosystem.