Life creation, life extension and alternative life forms

Are humans becoming a creative force that creates life from dead matter? Exploring new life forms, extending our life span tremendously, or even rejuvenating…it is now, at reach. Especially if we grow our own new organs thanks to stemcell research: will we become super evolved life forms with enhanced features and an extended life span?

Original Title: The mind of the universe

Lee Cronin, creator of alternative life: Non-biological life, you would say that this is impossible by definition. But that happens to be what he is trying to create. All life on Earth uses DNA or RNA and proteins, but is that the only option? Maybe this is just the only form that is left here on Earth, and we overlooked other life forms. And maybe there are other planets or life forms with a totally different basis. Cronin is looking for chemical reactions which are at the beginning of life: He does so with a kind of chemical search engine, that processes chemical structures endlessly. Will his lab create alternative forms of life?

George Church, creator of new life forms: likes to think about the future, and foresees tremendous changes in everything we know about life. Especially thanks to genetics. The Church lab was the first one to use the new CRISPR-Cas technique to transform human stem cells: a new form of life. DNA programming then become a piece of cake. We’re going to eradicate all kinds of diseases, dramatically extend our life span and then invest time and energy to bring life elsewhere in the universe. Will there be a variety of sophisticated genetic supermen that spread like wildfire across the galaxy?

Hans Clevers, creator of mini organs: “I’m sure we will know exactly within one or two generations how our body builds itself and sustains”. “And that means we basically can repair every sick organ. Probably with your own cells.”. Clevers doesn’t have enough with one life: he is the head of the investigation section of the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology and of a research group at the Hubrecht Laboratory and is also Professor of Molecular Genetics. His research is all about stem cells and how we can get them to do what we want.

The Mind of the Universe is an international science documentary series and open source platform about the rapid evolution of our knowledge. It explores the human destiny and the world of tomorrow through the eyes of the greatest thinkers and scientists of our time. In each episode, a typical human quality takes centre stage, in which the scientists and their research are embedded.

Originally broadcasted by VPRO in 2017.
© VPRO Backlight May 2017

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Presented by: Robbert Dijkgraaf
Editor in chief and script: Rob van Hattum
Direction & Editor: Kees Brouwer, Gijs Swantee, Sander Cijsouw
Research: Frederique Melman, Remy van den Brand, Anna Gimbrere, Wiesje Kuijpers, Gerko Wessel
Production: Madeleine Somer, Jordy van Langen (stage), May-Linn Tsiang (stage)
Cross Media Manager: Eef Grob
Redaction: Elmar Veerman, Marijn van der Waa, Bram van Dijk (stage), Imani van Oosterhout (stage), Yfke van der Ploeg (stage)
Media Manager & Assistant: Olivier Schuringa, Pardis Faqiri (stage)
Camera: Chris Blokhuis, Hans Bouma, Martijn Cousijn, Jacko van ’t Hof, Job Kraaijeveld, Sjoerd Vogel, Karsten Hohmann
Sound: Daan Arens, Dennis Kersten, Jillis Schriel, Mark Witte,Gregor Koppenburg, Bidisha Das, Pedro Rodriques da Silva
Translation: Lei Fang, Sasja Yakovleva, Alexandra de Vries
Script editing: Caroline Ligthart
Editing: Jeroen van den Berk, Sander Cijsouw, Tim van der Maden, Olivier van der Zee
Design: Jurriaan Schalken
Composition: Jos Jansen (Big Orange)
International partners and Education: Fred Mulder
In cooperation with: Tijl van Huijkelom

English, French and Spanish subtitles: Ericsson.
French and Spanish subtitles are co-funded by European Union.

Category: Technology
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