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    #681 - Ben Lamm - The Man Bringing Extinct Creatures Back To Life

    enSeptember 16, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • Reviving Extinct Species for BiodiversityUsing genetics of closest living relatives, scientists aim to bring back extinct species like woolly mammoths, preserving biodiversity and combating ecosystem collapse

      Ben Lam and his company, Colossal, are leading the way in the new frontier of "de extinction," working to bring back extinct species, starting with the woolly mammoth, to increase biodiversity and preserve all life on Earth. This process involves identifying the closest living relative of the extinct species, in the case of the mammoth, the Asian elephant, and using their genetics to recreate the extinct species. De extinction is not a new concept, but a way to restore core genes that have been lost due to climate change or human impact. Although it may not solve global warming alone, it is a crucial step in combating biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse. Ben's work has sparked debate and different perspectives, but the ultimate goal is to bring back unique species and use the technology for conservation efforts.

    • Bringing Extinct Animals Back to LifeModern science uses ancient DNA from well-preserved sources to create embryos of extinct animals, like the woolly mammoth, and implant them into living relatives. This process has become more efficient with technological advancements and the discovery of DNA in permafrost.

      Modern science is making strides in bringing extinct animals back to life through genetic engineering and cloning. Researchers are extracting ancient DNA from well-preserved sources like teeth, bones, and permafrost to create embryos that can be implanted into living relatives. For instance, scientists are working on reviving the woolly mammoth using the genes of an Asian elephant. The process has become more efficient with advancements in technology, moving from the crude methods used in the 1990s. The DNA for these extinct animals is often preserved in permafrost, providing a wealth of ancient specimens for researchers. The goal is to not only bring back extinct species but also to learn more about their genetics and how they evolved. Additionally, projects like "Adopt a Mammoth" aim to educate students about ancient DNA extraction and conservation efforts.

    • Advanced DNA technology and AI help compare mammoth and other species' genomesThrough advanced DNA tech and AI, researchers can build up mammoth genome sequences, identify differences with other species, and understand functional implications of genes for specific traits

      Advanced DNA sequencing technology and AI are enabling scientists to study and compare the genomes of different species, even those with heavily degraded DNA like mammoths. By combining data from multiple samples and increasing DNA coverage and read depth, researchers can build up a more complete genome sequence and identify differences between species. These differences can provide insights into convergent and general evolution, as well as lead to discoveries about physical attributes like hair growth and patterns. The ultimate goal is not just to sequence the genome, but to understand the functional implications of the genes and their role in producing specific traits. By leveraging AI and genotype-to-phenotype analysis, researchers can identify trends and apply discoveries to other mammals, potentially leading to advancements in areas like drought-resistant cattle. The process involves obtaining the DNA, assembling it, conducting computational analysis to identify targeted genes, and then editing Asian elephant cells to introduce the mammoth genes.

    • Bringing Extinct Animals Back to LifeScientists are using genetic editing and cloning techniques to recreate extinct animals by transferring edited nuclei into surrogate animals. For mammals, this involves somatic cell nuclear transfer, while for birds, scientists are exploring the use of primordial germ cells and chickens as surrogates.

      Scientists are working on bringing extinct animals back to life through genetic editing and cloning. This process involves extracting the nucleus of a somatic cell (non-reproductive cell) and transferring it into a germ cell (sperm or egg cell). The edited cell is then implanted into a surrogate animal to develop into an embryo. For mammals like mammoths, this involves somatic cell nuclear transfer and surrogate animals from the same species. However, for birds like dodos, the process is different, as birds cannot be cloned yet due to the difficulty of obtaining the right nucleus at the right developmental stage. Instead, scientists are exploring the use of chickens as surrogates by editing primordial germ cells (precursors to egg and sperm) and having them produce offspring with the edited genes. These offspring, when they hatch, will be the extinct animal species. Scientists are currently using this method to create transgenic chickens that can later serve as surrogates for the first cloned dodos, which are pigeons. Additionally, there are ongoing efforts to explore bird cloning using primordial germ cells. This field of research opens up exciting possibilities for conservation and scientific discovery.

    • Bringing Back Extinct Species: Cloning vs. Gene-Edited ConspecificsScientists are exploring methods to bring back extinct species, such as woolly mammoths, through genetic cloning and gene editing. The goal is to create an organism with mammoth features and cold tolerance using gene-edited conspecifics, not a new species, but rather an edited elephant with extinct mammoth genes.

      Scientists are working on bringing back extinct species, such as the woolly mammoth, through various means including genetic cloning and gene editing. However, cloning may not be the most effective method, and they are also exploring the Progeny of Gene-edited Conspecifics (PGC) route. The goal is to create an organism that has the core phenotypes of the mammoth while being cold-adapted. This organism would not be a new species, but rather an edited elephant with extinct mammoth alleles. It would have all the core features of a mammoth, such as the hair, cranial facial shape, tusk morphology, and cold tolerance. The process involves editing the elephant genome to include the extinct mammoth genes, resulting in an organism that looks and functions like a mammoth. Some argue that this organism would not be a mammoth in the purest sense, but the scientists' goal is to bring back the functional mammoth. The gestation period for this organism is around 22 months. While some may disagree with this approach, the scientists welcome further exploration and debate in the field of de-extinction.

    • Bringing the Thylacine Back to Life: A Complex ProcessThe thylacine's shorter gestation period and complex editing process make it less likely to be the first species de-extinct, despite potential advances in interspecies transfer and surrogacy.

      While the thylacine, the largest carnivorous marsupial, may look like a wolf due to convergent evolution, the process of bringing it back to life through de-extinction is more complex than bringing back larger species like the mammoth. The main challenges lie in the editing process, which requires more work in the case of the thylacine than in larger species. The gestation period for the thylacine is also much shorter at 13.5 days compared to the mammoth's 22 months. The process begins with computational biology, including assembling the reference genome. While the thylacine genome is easier to sequence, more edits are required, making the process harder. However, the potential for interspecies transfer and surrogacy between closely related species like the mammoth and Asian elephant increases confidence in the process. Despite the challenges, it's unlikely that the thylacine will be the first species to be de-extinct due to its shorter gestation period. The main limiting factor in the de-extinction process is not the quality of the DNA but rather the complexity of the editing process and the challenges of the surrogacy process.

    • Limiting factor in gene editing is availability of DNA, not success of editsAdvancements in gene editing technologies are driving progress, but the availability of viable DNA from exotic animals is the main challenge.

      The advancement of gene editing technologies is the limiting factor in the number of edits that can be made, not the success of the edits themselves. Dr. Ljudev Dahlen, a leading expert in mammoth genetics, is constantly discovering and sequencing more mammoth DNA, and there are various editing technologies available, including individual letter editing, multiplex editing, and DNA synthesis. Each technology has its advantages and limitations, and the choice between them depends on the extent of editing desired. For more exotic animals like mammoths or dinosaurs, the limiting factor is the availability of viable DNA. Currently, we can sequence DNA up to a million years old, but there is a vast amount of exotic DNA between then and now. Cold, dry environments are ideal for preserving DNA, while hot, acidic environments are not. Despite the challenges, ongoing advancements in gene editing technologies hold great promise for the future.

    • Reviving lost species for ecological restorationDe-extinction not only brings back extinct species but also necessitates addressing past ecological damage for successful reintroduction.

      Bringing back extinct species is not just about nostalgia or personal interest, but also about addressing past ecological damage and restoring ecosystems. The discussion mentioned the giant ground sloth, great auk, Stellar's sea cow, saber-toothed cats, and the dodo as potential candidates for de-extinction. While some, like the mammoth, have practical uses, others, like the dodo, serve as symbols of human-caused extinction and require ecosystem restoration efforts to successfully reintroduce them. The process of de-extinction not only offers the opportunity to revive lost species but also forces us to confront and rectify past environmental issues.

    • The extinction of large predators impacts ecosystemsThe loss of large predators can lead to cascading effects, disrupting food webs and ecosystem balance.

      The extinction of large predators like the Tasmanian tiger can have significant ripple effects on ecosystems. These predators play crucial roles in maintaining the balance of the food chain by preying on weaker animals and thinning herds. For instance, the Tasmanian tiger likely preyed on the Tasmanian devil, helping to control its population and prevent the spread of diseases. The loss of such predators can lead to trophic cascades, or the downgrading of entire food webs. The extinction of the mammoth, while symbolically important, is likely a result of a combination of factors including human hunting and changing climate conditions. The extinction of large predators can have far-reaching consequences, affecting not just the species that go extinct, but also the entire ecosystem.

    • Learning from Extinct and Endangered SpeciesExtinct and endangered species hold valuable genetic information and unique characteristics that could lead to breakthroughs in cancer research, stem cell technology, and carbon sequestration.

      While certain species, such as elephants and mammoths, may not be highly reproductive or viable on their own, they hold valuable genetic information that could potentially lead to breakthroughs in fields like cancer research and stem cell technology. For instance, elephants have an overexpression of the p53 protein, which helps them have a lower cancer rate than expected based on their size and longevity. Additionally, through efforts like the work being done by Colossal and Pleistocene Park, we can learn from these species and apply their unique characteristics to benefit the planet. For example, Pleistocene Park in Northern Siberia is working to remove carnivorous trees and restore the habitat of large herbivores like mammoths, which could improve carbon sequestration and create a more effective carbon sink. Overall, even extinct or endangered species have the potential to make significant contributions to our understanding of the natural world and our ability to address pressing issues like cancer and climate change.

    • Animals like mammoths and elephants can cool Arctic regions by up to 8 degreesIntroducing animals with ground-packing behavior and tree-knocking abilities, like mammoths and elephants, could help lower Arctic temperatures, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and maintain the 1.5-degree Celsius limit set in the Paris Agreement.

      Certain plant and animal species, like mammoths and elephants, can help lower ground temperatures in colder regions by up to 8 degrees. This is important because the Arctic permafrost contains more carbon and methane, a potent greenhouse gas, than anywhere else on Earth. If this permafrost melts, it could release vast amounts of carbon and methane into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change. Elephants achieve this cooling effect by packing the ground and allowing wind to reach it, making the ground cooler. They also knock down trees, which in the Arctic grasslands are less efficient at reflecting light and storing carbon than grasses. By increasing biodiversity in the Arctic with animals like mammoths or elephants, we could create a self-sustaining system that lowers temperatures, improves the oxygen-nitrogen cycle, and enhances carbon storage. This could help keep the Arctic from surpassing the 1.5-degree Celsius increase set in the Paris Agreement.

    • Reviving Extinct Species with Advanced TechnologiesScientists explore advanced methods like artificial wombs to bring extinct species back to life, potentially revolutionizing conservation efforts.

      Elephants play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystems, particularly in forested areas, acting as natural farmers and carbon credit preservation agents. However, the extinction of some species, like mammoths, seems imminent due to the slow breeding process. To address this, scientists are exploring advanced methods such as artificial wombs to produce mammoths at a larger scale for potential rewilding. This technology, if successful, could revolutionize conservation efforts and bring extinct species back to life. The long-term goal is to establish breeding centers and reintroduce these animals into their natural habitats. It's an exciting time for the field of de-extinction, as the science fiction aspect of the job is becoming a reality.

    • Collaborating with stakeholders for successful rewildingColossal recognizes the importance of collaboration with various stakeholders throughout the rewilding process to ensure true collaboration and consider diverse perspectives.

      Colossal, a company focused on de-extinction and bioengineering, recognizes the importance of collaboration with various stakeholders, including governments, regulatory agencies, indigenous people, and private landowners, throughout the entire rewilding process. This approach ensures true collaboration rather than just seeking approval, and allows for the consideration of diverse perspectives and feedback. Additionally, while Colossal's current work focuses on mammals, the potential applications of their technologies in human gene editing are vast, but ethical considerations and societal acceptance will be crucial factors in determining their future applications. The use of drugs like pks9 inhibitors, which block specific genes and have significant health benefits, offers a real-world example of the potential impact of gene editing, even if it hasn't been applied directly to human genomes yet.

    • Exploring the potential of gene editing and gene therapiesGene editing and gene therapies hold promise for curing diseases and enhancing human traits, but ethical and regulatory frameworks may struggle to keep up.

      Gene editing and gene therapies have the potential to cure diseases like diabetes and heart disease in the near term, and could make humans more radiation tolerant and longer-lived in the long term. The ethical and regulatory frameworks may struggle to keep up with the technological advancements, and the lines between embryo selection and genetic enhancement may blur. People have been practicing forms of genetic engineering through selective breeding for centuries, and the argument can be made that there is no fundamental ethical difference between embryo selection and genetic enhancement. Gene editing and gene therapies are surpassing the rate limits of regulation and ethics, and the future may bring even more possibilities. It's important to consider the ethical implications as we navigate these advancements.

    • Natural conception process uncertain, many embryos expelled without knowledgeAdvancements in tech like genome sequencing and AI analysis help detect issues earlier, personalized healthcare important, keeping LDL cholesterol levels between 50-75 may prevent and reverse damage

      The process of natural conception involves a significant degree of uncertainty, with around half of fertilized eggs being expelled from a woman's body without her knowledge within the first two weeks. This could be an adaptive mechanism, as it may serve as an early warning system for potential issues. The success rate for natural birth is low, around 8%, and even IVF only achieves a 50.50 success rate. Many of these failures could be due to undetected genetic defects in the embryos. However, advancements in technology, such as full genome sequencing and AI analysis, are helping to improve these odds. It's crucial for individuals to take responsibility for their personalized healthcare and undergo necessary tests, such as genome sequencing and imaging, to better understand their bodies and potential health risks. The use of AI tools and non-invasive imaging methods, like the one described by the speaker, can provide valuable insights and help detect issues earlier and more accurately. Additionally, recent research suggests that keeping LDL cholesterol levels between 50 and 75 could not only prevent further accumulation but also reverse existing damage.

    • Gene editing and selective breeding advancements for human healthPotential improvements in human health through gene editing and selective breeding, ethical considerations, and the importance of responsible regulation

      The advancements in gene editing and selective breeding have the potential to significantly improve human health and even prevent certain conditions before they occur. This could involve embryo selection or gene enhancement, although ethical considerations come into play. The discussion also touched upon the idea of countries like China, who are already sequencing genomes and using this information to find the smartest humans and practice assortative mating. However, it's crucial to have thoughtful regulation of these technologies to ensure they are used responsibly and ethically. Ben Lam's work at Colossal is an example of the progress being made in this field, and those interested in staying updated can visit Colossal.com.

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    George Mack is a writer, marketer and an entrepreneur. George is one of my favourite writers and probably delivers the highest insights-per-minute of anyone on Twitter. Today we get to go through some of my favourite ideas from him over the last few months on human nature, tribalism, happiness and politics. Expect to learn what the Busy Trap is and how to avoid it, the biggest differences between the US and the UK, the contrarian argument for why money doesn’t buy happiness, why strategic ignorance is so important, George’s favourite story about Charlie Munger, the lessons we both learned celebrating George’s 30th birthday in Miami and much more... Sponsors: See discounts for all the products I use and recommend: https://chriswillx.com/deals Get up to 20% discount on the best supplements from Momentous at https://livemomentous.com/modernwisdom (automatically applied at checkout)  Sign up and download Grammarly for FREE at https://grammarly.com/modernwisdom Get 5 Free Travel Packs, Free Liquid Vitamin D and more from AG1 at https://drinkag1.com/modernwisdom (discount automatically applied) Get a Free Sample Pack of all LMNT Flavours with your first box at https://www.drinklmnt.com/modernwisdom (automatically applied at checkout) Extra Stuff: Get my free reading list of 100 books to read before you die: https://chriswillx.com/books Try my productivity energy drink Neutonic: https://neutonic.com/modernwisdom Episodes You Might Enjoy: #577 - David Goggins - This Is How To Master Your Life: http://tinyurl.com/43hv6y59 #712 - Dr Jordan Peterson - How To Destroy Your Negative Beliefs: http://tinyurl.com/2rtz7avf #700 - Dr Andrew Huberman - The Secret Tools To Hack Your Brain: http://tinyurl.com/3ccn5vkp - Get In Touch: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chriswillx Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/chriswillx YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/modernwisdompodcast Email: https://chriswillx.com/contact - Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Modern Wisdom
    enJune 24, 2024

    #800 - 15 Lessons From 800 Episodes

    #800 - 15 Lessons From 800 Episodes
    To celebrate 800 episodes of Modern Wisdom, I broke down some of my favourite lessons, insights and quotes from the last hundred episodes. Expect to learn why starting the day with an imagined productivity debt is making you miserable, why being competent can be more of a curse than a blessing, how to easily assess how good an idea is, why obesity is a bigger problem than starvation, what I learned from Winston Churchill's father, how to predict culture war news stories, why it's so important to communicate directly and much more... Sponsors: See discounts for all the products I use and recommend: https://chriswillx.com/deals Get 10% discount on all Gymshark’s products at https://gymshark.com (use code MW10) Get $150 discount on Plunge’s amazing sauna or cold plunge at https://plunge.com (use code MW150) Get a 20% discount & free shipping on your Lawnmower 5.0 at https://manscaped.com/modernwisdom (use code MODERNWISDOM) Extra Stuff: Get my free reading list of 100 books to read before you die: https://chriswillx.com/books Try my productivity energy drink Neutonic: https://neutonic.com/modernwisdom Episodes You Might Enjoy: #577 - David Goggins - This Is How To Master Your Life: http://tinyurl.com/43hv6y59 #712 - Dr Jordan Peterson - How To Destroy Your Negative Beliefs: http://tinyurl.com/2rtz7avf #700 - Dr Andrew Huberman - The Secret Tools To Hack Your Brain: http://tinyurl.com/3ccn5vkp - Get In Touch: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chriswillx Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/chriswillx YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/modernwisdompodcast Email: https://chriswillx.com/contact - Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Modern Wisdom
    enJune 22, 2024

    #799 - David Robson - The Science Of Building Genuine Friendships

    #799 - David Robson - The Science Of Building Genuine Friendships
    David Robson is a science writer, journalist, and an author. Loneliness is the real pandemic. Many people yearning for connection but struggle to hold onto it. David has uncovered 13 laws of human connection which you can apply to build and deepen relationships with the people in your life. Expect to learn whether we are actually in a loneliness crisis, how solitude impacts our health, why people are struggling to make deeper connections, how you can express appreciation more freely to others, how you can heal bad feelings, why asking for help is important, why it’s so important get better at forgiving others and much more... Sponsors: See discounts for all the products I use and recommend: https://chriswillx.com/deals Get a 20% discount on Nomatic’s amazing luggage at https://nomatic.com/modernwisdom (use code MW20) Sign up for a one-dollar-per-month trial period from Shopify at https://www.shopify.com/modernwisdom (automatically applied at checkout) Get 5 Free Travel Packs, Free Liquid Vitamin D and more from AG1 at https://drinkag1.com/modernwisdom (discount automatically applied) Extra Stuff: Get my free reading list of 100 books to read before you die: https://chriswillx.com/books Try my productivity energy drink Neutonic: https://neutonic.com/modernwisdom Episodes You Might Enjoy: #577 - David Goggins - This Is How To Master Your Life: http://tinyurl.com/43hv6y59 #712 - Dr Jordan Peterson - How To Destroy Your Negative Beliefs: http://tinyurl.com/2rtz7avf #700 - Dr Andrew Huberman - The Secret Tools To Hack Your Brain: http://tinyurl.com/3ccn5vkp - Get In Touch: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chriswillx Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/chriswillx YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/modernwisdompodcast Email: https://chriswillx.com/contact - Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
    Modern Wisdom
    enJune 20, 2024

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    Episode 4654: Dark Enigma - The Scientific Pursuit of Animal De-Extinction – Are We Ready For A Real Life Jurassic Park

    Episode 4654: Dark Enigma - The Scientific Pursuit of Animal De-Extinction – Are We Ready For A Real Life Jurassic Park

    Please be aware the stories, theories, re-enactments and language in this podcast are of an adult nature and can be considered disturbing, frightening and in some cases even offensive.  Listener Discretion is therefore advised. 

     

    Welcome heathens welcome to the world of the weird and unexplained.  I’m your host, Nicole Delacroix and together, we will be investigating stories about the things that go bump in the night, frighteningly imagined creatures, supernatural beings and even some unsolved mysteries but I promise all sorts of weirdness.  So, sit back, grab your favorite drink, and prepare to be transported to today's dark Enigma.... 

     

    And on today’s Dark enigma well, we have another listener suggestion, and a quick reminder, we’re going to revisit some stories, so if you have an encounter you want to share let me know, I got some emails over the weekend that I haven’t had a chance to respond to yet, but I’m working thru them!  So, with that said, we will still be playing our drinking game and as you know, the drinking game is only for those of us that are at home and have nowhere else to go tonight.  The choice of libation, as always my darlings, is yours, so choose your poison accordingly… Alright, now for the game part how about every time I say species that will be a single shot and every time I say extinct, that will be a double shot.  Now that the business end is out of the way we can jump headfirst into today’s dark enigma… so don… your best and sharpest lab coat, and smarty pants glasses as we switch to the cerebral side with today’s offering and The Scientific Pursuit of Animal De-Extinction – Are We Ready For A Real Life Jurassic Park?

     

    It is a sad fact of the world that species are going extinct at a rapid pace, especially in this modern world that humans conquer and exploit day by day. Whether it is due to natural factors, cataclysms, or human activities, some species along with their whole natural heritage and evolutionary legacy are wiped off the face of the earth, gone forever. Or are they? What if we could bring them back, to resurrect these species and allow them to populate the planet and roam the wilderness once again? It is a sci-fi concept that has gained quite a bit of real momentum in recent years, and has been thrust into the public consciousness with the well-known Jurassic Park series of films. 

     

    Could we do really this? Should we? It is a complicated and complex topic to be sure, but there can be no mistake that bringing extinct animals back from the dead, a process called “de-extinction,” is a very real scientific pursuit, and is being researched and carried out with various degrees of success, with some of the animal candidates for these projects long gone and currently residing only within the lost sands of time.