On Tuesday, I came across an interesting article by Bill Gates.
Published in the Council of Foreign Relations’ Foreign Affairs magazine, he opened with the incredible progress humanity has made since the early 1990s.
Polio decreasing by 99%, extreme poverty falling from 35% to 11% and child mortality cut in half, to name a few…
But he highlighted the one major technology we need to go even further…
Heard of it?
Nor had I, until tech investor Eoin Treacy first told me about it last year (more on that in a second).
First, back to Gates.
As he says, CRISPR is one of the latest technologies in the field of targeted gene editing. Here’s part of his article (emphasis mine):
“Over the next decade, gene editing could help humanity overcome some of the biggest and most persistent challenges in global health and development. The technology is making it much easier for scientists to discover better diagnostics, treatments, and other tools to fight diseases that still kill and disable millions of people every year, primarily the poor.”
As you’re about to see, CRISPR technology allows us to literally remove “bad” genes and put “good” ones in their place.
This has obvious health benefits – removing faulty genes that cause cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s…
But you wouldn’t be reading Exponential Investor if you didn’t expect me to hone in on the most incredible – and almost unbelievable – potential of this technology.
I’ll show you what I mean in just a moment.
First, a quick primer on how CRISPR works.
Editing like a Word processor
Eoin introduced me to CRISPR after his visit to the lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the main places this tech is being developed.
Here’s the quick rundown he gave me…
Basically, CRISPR is an ancient immune system found in bacteria like E. coli.
Over billions of years, CRISPR has learned to recognise any viral DNA that previously tried to infect the cell it was protecting.
Scientists can now programme CRISPR to recognise any modern disease we want it to. Like Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease…
And they’ve found that when teamed up with certain “catalyst” enzymes, CRISPR can be trained to “cut out” the viral DNA that causes faulty genes.
In effect, this lets us “edit” faulty genes to make them healthy. Kind of like when you edit incorrect words and sentences in Microsoft Word.
But, like I said, I’m here to tell you about an even more incredible discovery that’s coming out of gene-editing techniques like CRISPR.
Are you ready?
Drum roll please…
I’m not talking about living forever, indefinitely. But I am talking about being young forever.
I know what you’re thinking – sounds impossible – but bear with me.
The Washington Post reports that Professor George Church, co-inventor of CRISPR, is actively working on this technology to prevent congenital disease (AKA age-related decline).
And in less than five years, Church reckons we could have these age-reversing genetic treatments going through FDA-approved trials in dogs.
That means living long enough to mean you’re old technically – but without any of the side-effects!
But where’s the proof this could actually work?
Thing is, I’ve seen incredible reports in Scientific American about work at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies…
Their researchers reversed the ageing process of mouse and human cells and, “extended the life of a mouse with an accelerated-aging condition” and successfully promoted recovering from injury in another middle-aged mouse.
“Even cells from human centenarians could eventually be rejuvenated” according to Alejandro Ocampo, another of the study’s principle authors.
No wonder Church is already pondering the consequences of society living a longer, more youthful life…
… We’d all be “less of a burden on the medical system”…
… We’d have to ask “Is there a limit to how much we would change our human nature?”…
… And even from an economic standpoint, “we could stop retirement”.
I don’t think I’m so keen on that last one.
But, if I didn’t have to work until the day I die, then I’d happily live the rest of my life forever youthful.
What about you?
What would you do with your time if you could live… forever?
If you want to find out more about CRISPR to help you decide, then I highly recommend you read Eoin Treacy’s letter – it goes into much more depth than I have today.
P.S Do you want even more detailed information about CRISPR?
Like what companies and governments are funding it with millions of dollars…
Whose lives it has already saved (they include an 11-month old girl in London)…
And what firm could be about to win the majority of the patent rights…
Category: Genetics and Biotechnology