tv Siddhartha Mukherjee Discusses The Gene CSPAN December 30, 2016 8:56pm-10:04pm EST
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nonfiction prize the emperor of formalities was an inquiry that had clinical and personal. he has done it again the tells the story of genetics with the social history of a personal narrative. he was so physically and mentally exhausted after emperor she did god expect to write another book but it was a natural paring with the prequel with that biological normalcy. and to ever wonder how much of our lives depend john dexter of parks down to
expect a simple answer it is complicated. as far back that was a couple decades ago he kid distinguish and self then went to harvard medical school with a professor at columbia at university and to me n conversation this evening the:editor and managing editor of the pbs news hour please join me to welcome siddhartha mukherjee and judy. [applause]
>> thanks for that creches introduction -- gracious introduction. if you read a the emperor of all morality issue will be more than fascinated by "the gene." i feel like my microphone is a little bit louder. there are so many ways with like to begin but the years that you worked on the book you said you were exhausted but then something else was going on in your mind and
you write about that in a way that will pull every right to end the beginning of the book. what was going on in your life and to even think about writing this? i did not think of it as the name of the book but as i was growing up by had a history of mental illness and my family i had to uncles' with bipolar having lived with that for many years one of them lived with my family what was growing up. then some time in my childhood was also diagnosed and institutionalized.
and that elephant in the room would not go away. most families said that they could not deny that any more like my father could not that that was a part of his life with that heredity component. that is when we began to talk about it. so constantly in the back so who else send what does it look like? some of this story was my story long before it came my
story and when i finished riding "the emperor of all maladies" in i thought i would be done but then i kept coming back to this idea it was like star wars the prequel to the sequel laugh laugh. >> rededicate the book to to people none of them was your own grandmother so there is the powerful story there but to read from the start of the book you were with your father and went to visit your cousin? >> this is where the story begins. >> this is the prologue of
the lonely counter campaign with that diagnosis that magically easy demands and self. and once without warning to leave it -- to live a secretly normal life. but my father knew and i knew there was more than these visits. the only member of mental illness of the four brothers to suffered of the unraveling of the mind. and les part of the by-elections lies in the gramm recognition that he
pay be buried. then this the first paragraph of the book. >> so in your family you heard stories about it you said your grandmother was influential fan to how she was toward your uncle. >> he came to live with us because he could no longer take care of himself. so in this nuclear family growing up with aspirations in new delhi was saved remnant and he moved in with us by then. >> years later, and the idea that in your family were constantly thinking about this one generation to the next but it wasn't everybody in the family or every cousin and certainly not you . but, that was the impetus
that brought you to think, that he wanted to spend more time looking at the genetic mystery. there is a connection to cancer in the first book you were embarking on a completely different and ambitious story. >> i published a small excerpt with that picture of me and my father for a price set on a for many years i didn't do anything with it but the first thing that i wrote and didn't give it out to the left anyone as part of my writing process but i went back to wit -- to it and the genetics is about family, it is this a
reminder we think of the word genius has infused our culture as the abstract concept that people talk about in a laboratory. but it is family. it has to do with family and how you and i are made. who doesn't have a of relative that is affected? you could put that with an interaction with the jeans now when i look back, this is really about family and living organisms that emanate of the things that are called genes.
>> you wrote this and before i ask you about the history history, you write this with the sense of real urgency that you felt was important to get this down now because there's a lot going on in science. we talked about this earlier , you had a sense it is important for people to understand don't just leave that up to the experts. >> i will give u.s. sense of what is going on moving forward. we are learning to read and write the as human genome. i mean as you know, 2002 we obtained the sequence.
that is what it is the entire repository of genetic information of the human embryo and it is written in code one. i have not memorized it. [laughter] but here is what is interesting, if you imagines the encyclopedia, it is 66 false sense of the encyclopedia britannica lining up all the edges if you would pick them upper -- pick them up, yet out of
that there is the four-letter code that builds you and me. with small variations and that is the difference between you and me. so to understand those technologies number one to read that code very clearly beginning to predict what might have been in your future of the genome for one example if you have the one gene mutation for breast cancer but it could be 10 times higher than those who don't. if you have cystic fibrosis gene mutation if both
parents the chance is nearly 100 percent the diseases in your future. i can tell you from your embryonic cell that you will have that disease 100 percent that is reading the genome and now is more complicated about illness. and complicated things about potential identity. that is hell we enter the territory to have some moral concerns. not only do i do that reading but to make intentional directional changes those astonishing
technologies that they learn to use says humans and then pick out one volume erased one word playback in -- to playback believes the rest of untouched. seems once they acquire the technology we need to talk about them. >> last week there was a closed-door meeting and that entire human genome one but in other words, they you could take that entire human
i was thinking about this and that the information kind of sat there and it was another couple of thousand years, or almost a thousand before charles darwin started doing his work and then some other interesting characters and their almost these signposts along the way people who have worked on genetics and it all came together later to be critical. talk about that early work that was done. >> what's interested in about it is that of course this is a perennial question. since the dawn of human history,
you can imagine one of the first question we asked ourselves is why do we look like our parents were why do we not look like our parents. these two simultaneous contradictions, the ying and yang of of these two questions have been part of our dna forever. who hasn't asked that question. when an illness strikes. when two identical twins are born we say why do they look like the same and so forth. it's an astonishing fact and he was in astonishing biologist. >> which most people don't realize. >> yes.
he was trying to divide the world up into different organic forms of. aristotle realized, or he made the argument that what was really moving was message, some kind of message. it's a little bit ke a carpenter shaping a piece of wood. the carpenter, when the carpenter shapes it, how human beings are formed, when a carpenter shapes shapes a piece of wood, he doesn't shape it in a material way ,-comma what he does is he transmits information as it were his handiwork or her handiwork into that piece avoid. that is what happens. he is transmitting information, message into that piece of wood
and that's what make that would acquire whatever form. this was back in, i don't remember exactly when that point the time was, but this was back in the day when people were debating about how god gave us forms. there's a long silence after that. for a while people thought that in fact this was so complicated, how on earth could a fully formed embryo develop when a woman conceives, how can that possibly happen. they made the argument, it was an argument made in the 1600s that hundreds that in fact a tiny miniature human being was sitting inside sperm, wrapped up like this and major pictures of it too.
if you thought about it carefully and i had to be the case that since that animal would also generate its own children, many had to be sitting inside. and so forth and so on infinitely. it's a little crazy if you think about it. this was one of the most popular ideas about how we transmitted likeness which was of course the gene. >> but the information ,-comma what he figured out and shared really sat there, along comes charles darwin who did some important work in all of this, but there are some others who came along that were not
appreciated. you spend some interesting pages on the monk. >> yes, it's a fascinating story he realizes, it's very interesting that both darwin and him are monks. it's instructive about our times and people found no contradiction contradiction about exploring our universe, someone should read -- the capacity and compassion they brought to their scientific
explorations was incredible. so he was a monk and he began to do extremely simplified experiment. that was his trick. his main insight was to simplify this idea around genetics. he said i want to forget all about that and all i'm going to do is study with almost monastic concentration, i will study what happens with one or 27 individual features across multiple generations of peace. here were people talking about hugely complex experience about human embryos and how we were born and there was him sitting in a small monastery at the edge of the city where he sat all i want to do is study seven tests and map them, he didn't coin the
word gene, he had no idea what these were and at the end of it, just by mathematical reasoning, he realized realized that has got to be something, the unit of information must be passing between the parent and the offspring. >> he wanted to work with mice, but in fact his superiors would let him. >> that's right because mice was a little too risqué. so i spent some time in the monastery. it's a beautiful place. you can get to it easily from vienna but it's a little bit of a schlep. i traveled over to the monastery and i arrived there and there was a woman at the front desk and i said i've come all this way, i want to see the birthplace of biology.
was like a pilgrimage for me. he said i'm sorry, the monastery is closed so this is the czech republic and i said i pleaded, i bagged a knife that i've come to all this way and i just just want to be inside and see the library and she said no and i said who do i apply to and completely without any irony she said to me. so i'm from india and i said to complete this game and i said i hereby apply to you and so she was defeated and she let me in so i spent four or five days going back and forth, being in the library and looking up that garden where he planted those peas that generated this thing which is now taken over the world. >> and with the work that he did, it wasn't appreciated for a long time and he was gone and at
some point, there are a number of other important figures. remind us, who who came up with the term genetics? psalmody gets credit for that. >> remember he doesn't even have that word in his vocabulary but he knows he stumbled on something. >> he sent copies of his report, he condensed it to 40 some pages and sent it to the scholarly centers but it was dismissed. everyone said what is he writing about and why should i be reading this and he went on describing and then in the 1900s
he gets rediscovered and soon after in 1909 we find the word gene because botanists and biologists begin to say to himself we have to have a word for this. it's abstract, we don't know what it is, is a molecule or a structure, but something carries this information. we know it's important and so we've got to have a word for it. william, one of his great defenders, i talk about him and there's a great picture of him in the book and points to the word genetics from genius, generation, all of these words coming together and he coins the word gene for genetic and then his colleague says we have to name that thing and they name it the gene.
>> so it's fits and starts. this progress and set back and more progress and you do an amazing wonderful job of bringing to light these people who really probably led on extraordinary lives and then you fast-forward, but before you get to that point things really go badly. why did that happen? >> it's important to remember that off-track. the desired you manipulate heredity, you can do powerful studies.
he invented the term eugenics. he didn't know very much about genetics and he made a huge mistake. he was a great mathematician and statistician, but he also lived in darwin shadow all his life. can you imagine these two giants , he had many important contributions to statistics and he thinks that regardless of what the gene is, whether it's a gene or no gene, we can use human heredity by manipulating heredity and make better human beings. he supposedly coined the word eugenics, good genes, in order
to make better human beings. if you selectively breed the best we can superiorly emancipate ourselves and here's what's astonishing, this was considered a progressive idea like taking evening walks or getting a very healthy idea for humankind and many progressives, some exceptions and notable exceptions that this this is a great idea, we should do more of this. it took off in england and stayed in england, and that idea metastasizes and reaches the shores of this country where it mingles with the yankee practicality and becomes, it morphs into not just let's breed the best, let's sterilize those who carry bad genes. that escalates slowly and leads
to a case that many people know, the carry box case. carrie carrie buck was a woman who was accused of having to be sterilized and the great judicial moderate, the case climbed to his court and it said three generations of imbeciles is enough and carrie buck was moved to a state colony and she was forcibly taken to an operating theater and sterilize sterilized on that pretext. >> there was no proof that she had anything. >> there was no evidence. if anything she was, she was a bit of a rebel. that was the worst of her sentence. >> you are saying to me early today that you felt it was so
important and she's one of two people you dedicate the book too this happen. it's not just nazi germany. >> right and to finish up the story, it metastasizes again and moves from selective reading to selective sterilization to selective extermination and that is the final incarnation and we now remember it by that. beginning with people who had mental illness, moving on to things like depression and moving on to the racial and athletic and human cleansing, and i put that right in the middle of the book. in fact i wanted to start the book with that idea, but then i realized to start the book with
the german episode, i realized it was much much more chilling to watch what happens in front of your own eyes. that the road to that menace, the road to that ghastly nest was paved by a desire to emancipate the desire for perfectibility and to make ourselves better and less than 30 years, the extermination of someone who has a mild form of mental illness. >> i think we all want to believe that could never happen again, but as you set a a moment ago, because of the incredible advances that have been made in such a short time that people really don't understand ,-comma what do you think the
possibility is that decisions could get made now or in the near future that not a repetition of some of the worst of what you described, but we could head off in a direction that could be hard to turn around. >> the one example in the united states and one example internationally, i personally think having read the story, i think it's very likely that we will have a state-mandated form of eugenics. i think what's much more difficult to contend with is that we are entering an era of personalized eugenics. this technology is available today. very soon you should be able to sequence every single gene of your unborn child. the question you need to ask yourself is what to do with this information. you won't know what to do with the information unless you know what genes are and how they
interact. that is one arena that's important, but men men meanwhile let's not forget that numerically the largest project is already going on in india and china. in some parts of india there are 700 women compared to 1000 men. there has never been this large of a skew that is a project fostered by science, beginning with ultrasound diagnosis and ending up with amniocentesis and gender diagnosis through chromosomal analysis, etc et cetera. ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a time where were already part of it. it has destabilized the way we think about it. it's not someone else's am i it's not some other worlds problem. this is our world's problem and
the faster we accepted and the more we understand it, the more armed we will be in able to mitigate internationally. >> it's clearly a case of the science being ahead of where government policymakers are prepared to make decisions. how much of that is the practical effect right here in the united states. you talked a minute ago about the work that's being done to edit genes and what you just said about creating a person synthetically. >> creating a genome. >> how much do scientists talk about that? homage to they sit sit around and worry about that, think about it, and how much do they talk to policymakers. >> they think a lot and worry a lot about it but the policymakers don't have the language to understand what the implications are of them.
the scientists don't have the language at all. my mentor for many years, paul and several other scientists discovered the technology to close list genes together in the 1970s pretty one a nobel prize and it's relatively simple technology. you take one piece of dna and you cut it up using tiny molecular scissors made by bacteria to kill each other and you stick them together with another enzyme and another factor which is used normally when you're dna strands break because of x-rays, something to stick them back together and maintain the integrity. if you just combine these two pieces you can certainly start
taking a gene from a frog and stitch it together with another animal. you can take to genes of any sort. this is incredibly important technology. cancer drugs are made this way. you take, because the genetic code is uniform and universal you can take a gene from a blue well and put it in a monkey and the monkey sells would recognize that for all intents of purposes of a monkey gene and make it as a monkey gene. that's because we all evolve from the same original organisms and we share the same genetic code. so when this technology was first created, scientists got together and created an open meeting. journalist came, policymaker came, they all spent months reading. there was no document about the gene but they all spent months collecting the information, learning the vocabulary and then
they had a meeting in which they said we are going to put a voluntary project for one year before we can figure out what the next steps are because this technology may unleash biological catastrophe. it is possible, i think, at, at least within the united states to put it on things before we figure out what to do with them. two weeks ago, two months ago there was a large conference and it was suggested there should be a moratorium on editing human genes, in particular kinds of cell. certainly not not every cells but embryonic stem cells of certain kinds, although that's unlikely to happen, but certainly human embryos. meanwhile, to finish up, there's up, there's an experiment in china that was published where they went ahead and tried to define genetic mapping in a human embryos.
they tried to make a defined genetic change. >> what happened. what was the result. >> we don't fully know because it was published piecemeal and they were nonviable embryos so the quick answer is any principle they could make genetic changes in human embryos. >> what does that mean? >> that means in principle, if you tweaked the technology you could say yourself that i'm interested in, and i talk about how you might treat that in the real world, the chinese experiment is actually not a great way to do that experiment, but if you tweaked that you could say i'm going to try to erase the mutation from my genetic heritage. i'm going to try to erase or change the mutation or variation that causes alzheimer's disease from my heritage.
in the bars are a scenario you could say i want to add information back to the human genome which you could do. you could add information to the human genome. >> we want to make people taller or something. >> i talk about this. it's very important to realize, tallest or height is genetic but at least five or seven genes govern not. could you change five or seven genes? maybe you could. , but also, you can add information back to the human genome. that is a surprising thing and we should take that very, very seriously. >> we are going to be taking questions from all of you in just a couple of minutes but before we do, just how do we make sure that this kind of work goes in the right direction and not someplace that we don't even
want to think about? >> i think there has to be an international consensus on health because the next thing you know there will be an arms race, china china korea india will start making genetic interventions and outlying one possibility, one thought experiment that happened, but long before the atomic bomb was made there was a famous letter that said there's no such thing as the atomic bomb, but here's a thought, just in your brain walk through this process and you end up with the unleashing of immense power in a concentrated manner and even write and say this could create a weapon of great destruction. nothing has been made yet. it's just that you can walk the mental steps to it. i think we need to walk those mental steps and figure out what the possibility is. we need to walk those steps
internationally so we can figure out what the realm of control is, and i suggest a kind of framework by which we can stick to before we enter an error that we don't want to enter. >> so we are going to take questions. i guess there are couple of microphones. before they come to the microphone, when i think about what you do, when i think about the book that you wrote on cancer and the work you did with public television and sharon rockefeller who is here and is the president of w eta who worked with you on the film and ken burns, and i think how do you even have time to sleep because you are scientists
you're a scientist and oncologist, you write books, your husband and a father and you write books, how do you do it all? >> this? >> this book came out of such urgency that it had to be written. i sort of prioritized it. it took five and half years so it seems as if it came up one morning, but it took a lot of time and i spent a lot of time on it and a lot of it was going back to the stories. i thought to myself if i can just knit together the stories, one after another, i would achieve the book. >> it's kind of extraordinary that he can get it all done. let's start over here. i can't see very well but stepped to the mic and ask a question. >> hi, my name is andy and i'll be starting school in the fall to study the intersections of anthropology and i just had a question along the lines of this discussion, exploring new frontiers of science so i know you've written about genetics
and were starting to find a lot more information and evidence about the transgenerational generations of transmitting information and i was wondering, in the spirit of this conversation understanding the ethical and social considerations of new scientific findings ,-comma what those would be? >> let me rephrase the question because at the very important question. the question is, to what extent, we know that genes transmit information across generations, but lately there's been a lot of interesting finding about whether things that happen to you in the environment can also be transmitted across generations. the evidence for that is very, very minimal right now. it's a totally unexplored frontier. :
genes actually protect us from that there almost designed to wash away the sins of our fathers and all the scars that we have in our body are washed away it is a very beautiful thing as a solution to read generation but there is evidence with very detailed studies on starvation of simple organisms that does have any effect aoss cogenerations. >> for years we have had a dichotomy of genetics and environment even when sociobiology and i always thought it was a false dichotomy everything was genetic form tried the environment not genetic war
or environmental but the commonality maybe having pour eyesight is genetic yet we could do lace sick surgery to affect our behavior so that is a false question quite. >> it is in just a false question but that has led us lot i write about this in of book extensively when somebody asks the question is in nature or nurture the first question we should be asking back is what are we talking about? what aspect? some concrete examples of gender is strikingly genetic one that aspect of gender anatomy if you have that
gene you will have one particular anatomy gender and physiology that goes with them and if not it is the opposite how do we know? if you have some women that the one gene is mutated these women are self-described with most gender anatomy in tact and so the agenda anatomy strikingly government by the genes but the gender identity, so the idea that
that is an arm assist it depends on what lovell love hierarchy we are examining and it is amazing to me that he meant cannot understand a simple idea to be dominated by jean store environment it depends what we are asking about. >> would lead you please elaborate on the recent developments of treating cancer with the gene modification particular the breast cancer? >> right now all of these technologies can have powerful effects.
one of the things there are some recent striking trials the gene therapy and certainly the adn of genes being used in breast cancer and has really changed the life of those who have the mutation. the only way to make that is a human gene antibody from that other technique so when you talk about genes and cancer they run the gamut from diagnosis, a genetic therapy, drugs, we would not
be here today without genetic engineering in particular. >>, it promised you feel is in that area? >> certainly with the antibody therapies they do more and more it is impossible without genetic engineering. we would not know what the entire body was. so when it underlies these miraculous advances. >> so that distinction of breast cancer they are genes. it is a marker for certain kinds of cancer.
did you have to learn genetics very quickly. >> how close are we to getting a cure for cancer? how close might ppv quick. >> care is a complicated word because it depends on what we talk about if you ask me to be helpful in some ways but it is helpful to refocus the attention at the time when we talk about what is irrelevant issues of how
to emancipate the health problems so rather than focusing on to rebuild the systems whether federally funded that can provide medical confirmation. end already if they have not met their goals and that has allowed us to clear some of mccaw blabs i think there will be a backlash as well to say how dare we we have said otherwise.
i think it has advanced significantly over the last decade. >> to more questions. >> we have spent talking about human genetics the policy might first thought goes to the gm ball and that is a huge gap with that scientific consensus and the perception. >> to be honest i do think it deserves a full second book. [laughter] the issue to be genetically modified beds talk about the technology's but i don't go
into the pros and cons are pluses or minuses but the one thing i would say is these sophistication is increasing daily that raises the specter of unintended consequences to be less concerned locally but personally in that biosphere at large with the much larger conversation you have that another time. >> we will count as a question but as the lead in into another conversation. >> want to ask european.
and so the of problem is not that there isn't meeting spaces opportunities but the whole category is different. once that becomes common it becomes much more easy so part of that effort is to arm ourselves if you open the newspaper with the human genome what does that mean? what are the implications and and we can have a real conversation with thank you for reminding us that is the effort that we need to have to work. >> originally i m from the
czech republic. [laughter] >> let's have a drink. >> do you think in the future we could identify the gene quick. >> these are complicated questions and 15 years ago david say they are great but now they're not so crazy rather genes for temperament personality quirks almost always there is a very high order principles that lie a in between the environment but do life feel that these
qualities have some components that the answer in is yes studying identical twins separated at birth the famous teddy i interviewed one of the authors product in very different circumstances shared surprising kinds of behavior is. personality traits preferences, anxieties, what does that mean? that what predisposes does to certain kinds of behavior or also not identical twins but siblings that falls dramatically it is a very
my pleasure. [applause] >> your watching book tb on c-span to editor of the new times book review now we were watching siddhartha mukherjee his book "the gene" one of the notable books of 2016 every year editors select the 100 books that we think are particularly noteworthy that year and of long and difficult process that we think all americans and readers should read i am also of post that we have interviewed many of the authors then appear on c-span is to as well as those on the weekly e pawed
cast up next we have the author of playing to the edge. hayden is the former head of the nsa, a cia, a four-star general under the bush and administration intimate be involved in all details and t11 is an insider's account of the bush administration as well as a personal memoir not surprisingly finding yet what happens then counterterrorism and intelligence from the bush should ministrations and he
also answer some of his critics up next is michael hayden author of "playing to the edge" one of the 100 notable books of the need your times book review. >> host: first of all, a very fine book. starting off with some interesting chapters growing up in the same neighborhood for many years what it's like to have a family i thought you might want to say a word before using the words like matted data --