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The Amber Fresh Chronicles

CRISPR and Cas9: Minds Blown at General Knowledge Club and A Small Shoutout to Stina à la fin.

Andrew Ryan

I feel like I have my mind blown every day. Sometimes it's from seeing the blood actually pulsing through the body of a worm, sometimes it's when nick writes a song from nothing that becomes an anthem of emotion, sometimes it's the ocean. Last night though it was a different type of mind blow. 

So we were having General Knowledge Club at the big table in the kitchen. General Knowledge Club is where people come together and three or so people talk for ten or so minutes about something - truly anything, like Kafka or the history of the mirror ball, or the different states of matter, or what each of the women in their family in France were doing at the age of 30, which is what our friend Eva did last night. 

Our other friend Lisa studies what goes on in the guts of mothers and babies, through poo, and at what point the mother seeds her microbiome into the baby's body. We are all giving even when we don't know it. 

Well, Lisa told us about CRISPR and Cas9, and from now on all 10 of the people at that table - Ai Ling the food blogger, Anthony the playwright, Tom the artist, Nick the musician, Eva the director, Amber the writer, Mei the singer, Matt the educator and Lena the traveller - will have those acronyms at the front of their lobes. 

Lisa's explanation went like this - imagine it was the 80s and someone was trying to describe to you what place computers and the internet would have in our lives in 30 years' time. She said the reach and influence of CRISPR and Cas9 will be the same: these two lil words will be part of every part of our every day lives in ways we cannot imagine, and in some ways the most forward of thinkers might dare to imagine now. 

CRISPR and Cas9 are basically ways that bacteria know how to edit genes, that can be used easily and cheaply and quickly to edit DNA of organisms. They do a cut and paste of DNA to get rid of viruses and do whatever else bacteria like to do for fun. This is an incredible leap into the future through looking at the way lil guys already do things that can be harnessed to completely revolutionise how we live, heal, eat, look, grow, etc.  And none of us at the table had heard about it yet. Lisa casually explained the possibilities for altering humans to fit in better on our new planet homes - Mars, etc.  This experience was like someone telling us that aliens had been contacted for the first time, in a direct and publishable way, and that in the next few years we'll get to know what music they like, how they do telepathy, invite them to dinners, and all the rest. 

I whispered into Tom's ear, I think Nick and Mei were CRISPRd for music. And then I said it loud enough for them to hear, but they were giggling and missed it, so we still don't know. 

Hm, so if you don't know (about soon being able to edit your genes by eating some specially made yoghurt), now you know. The first CRISPRd meal just got eaten in Sweden - some pasta with cabbage. 

In other news: Stina Thomas played down at the basement gallery Success on Saturday. She rarely plays these days, and I have no idea whether it's because she lays low on purpose or whether everyone just assumes she's laying low and it's a self-repeating palindrome of events. But everyone as usual was enchanted. She plays a mix of beats-based electronic music and beautiful cinematic compositions on a big harmonium she must have trouble fitting into the car, pedalling on the down belows of the machine with the notes only just coming out, weaving and whistling their way like silky moths into everyone's ears. She makes silk on us and we wrap ourselves in it, each telling our own story to go along with the music, and then getting woken by the mellifluous small laugh of Stina at the end of the piece.