nanoTalks: From alchemy to genome editing
Come and join us for the next round of nanoTalks, where two short speeches will be dedicated to two interesting basic research topics: the transfer of scientific knowledge in medieval arabic alchemy and the discovery of the novel genome editing technology CRISPR/Cas9
1. Talk: From Simple Recipe to Sophisticated Poem: The Transfer of Scientific Knowledge in Medieval Arabic Alchemy
Christopher Braun, Ph.D.: Research Fellow, SNSF project "Between Religion and Alchemy. The scholar Ibn Arfa‘ Ra’s (d. 1197) as a model for an integrative Arabic literary and cultural history“ at the Institue of Asian & Oriental Studies of the University of Zurich
Alchemy enjoyed great popularity in the societies of the pre-modern Middle East and North Africa. The large number of Arabic alchemical manuscripts preserved at present in libraries across the globe demonstrate the former significance of this occult science. The Arab and Arabic-writing alchemists tried to comprehend the different properties of gases and metals and hoped to find an enigmatic substance known as ‘the elixir’ or ‘the philosophers’ stone’. They believed this substance would enable them to transmute base metals into silver and gold. Since alchemists often faced ridicule, envy, and hostility, they applied different strategies in transmitting their knowledge while keeping it secret at the same time. In this talk, I shall initiate novices into this ancient ‘Art’ and reveal their practitioners’ strategies to pass on their expertise and well-guarded secrets.
2. Talk: CRISPR/Cas9: How basic research revealed a new method for genome editing
Joel Lüthi: PhD candidate at the University of Zurich, Institute of Molecular Life Sciences in the lab of Lucas Pelkmans and vize-president of reatch. He did his Master’s thesis on using CRISPR/Cas9 for genetic perturbation profiling.
Many discoveries in basic research have unanticipated benefits years later. The genome editing technology CRISPR/Cas9 is a prime example of such a technology. It gave us a much more affordable and faster method to precisely edit genomes, thus simplifying basic and applied research and inspiring new therapeutic approaches. But how did we get to this point? In this talk, I will tell the story of how the first parts of the CRISPR/Cas9 system were uncovered, how its role in bacteria became understood and how the application to genome editing was discovered.