Comment Visions Transcriptoion
 
INTERVIEW WITH PROFESSOR MIROSLAV RADMAN,
PARIS UNIVERSITY V, PARIS - BROADCAST NOVEMBER
4TH 2008
 
COMMENTARY
In the second half of the 20th
century, science gave industry a
new raw material - the codes of
life itself.
The ability to manipulate living
material puts enormous resources
into our hands, even the power to
create new forms of life.
But genetics inspires both hope
and controversy.
Professor Miroslav Radman works
at the frontier of the new science
of medical biotechnology.
A Croatian living in France,
Euronews met him at his
laboratory in Paris.
INTERVIEWER
\"What are you working on at the
moment?\"
PROFESSOR MIROSLAV RADMAN
\"I\'m now involved in the study,
trying to understand how life is
maintained. Why some species
live a few weeks and some live a
hundred years. Why some cells
will divide for ever in a petrie dish
and why some others divide a few
times and collapse. How life itself
is maintained, and we are doing
that by studying some curious,
rare creatures of nature, some
kind of freaks of robustness, of
resistance. They are a bacterium
caled deinococcus radiodurans.
They can truly resurrect back to
life and I would like to know what
is the molecular, biological basis
of their incredible robustness
beause I would like to become
robust myself before I die.\"
INTERVIEWER
\"Do you think this is a
possibility?\"
PROFESSOR MIROSLAV RADMAN
\"This is not only a possibility, this
is now our project. And I believe
that in a few years, a year or two
only, we will know how these
extremely robust creatures
protect their life machinery from
falling apart and we are now
measuring the relevant event. It
will be like a car that has built in a
network and smart engineer that
is present everywhere and fixes
small damages as they happen.
Then you will have a Rolls Royce
that will last for many centuries.\"
INTERVIEWER
\"Or a 90-year-old tennis player.\"
PROFESSOR MIROSLAV RADMAN
\"Exactly\"
INTERVIEWER
\"And this is a real possibility?\"
PROFESSOR MIROSLAV RADMAN
\"It is absolutely a possibility. This
is not a dream. We measure this
damage and quantify how much
damage to the cellular machinery
has been done and we see that
these robust freaks are protected
even when irradiated with
hundreds of thousands of rads
while normal species are
damaged, oxidised and dead. So
we think we ca put the finger on
the chemistry of maintenance of
life...and use it. Mabe every
morning drink some of it.\"
INTERVIEWER
\"There\'s a lot of controversy
about genetic research. I\'m
talking about stem cell research,
I\'m talking about genetically
modified crops which causes a lot
of concern and confusion in the
community. Are we right to be
concerned do you think?\"
PROFESSOR MIROSLAV RADMAN
\"It\'s wise to be concerned and its
dangerous to be hysterical about
innovation and new knowledge. I
think somebody should be asking
at the level of ethics, bioethics,
medical ethics, somebody should
be there asking the question: who
will be responsible for us not
doing something that will improve
the quality of life of our children?
INTERVIEWER
\"We also need to be bold.\"
PROFESSOR MIROSLAV RADMAN
\"We need to be bold.\"
INTERVIEWER
\"Turning now to some of the
challenges we face this century -
we\'ve got a few problems. We
have rapid climate change caused
by excessive carbon dioxide
emissions, we have increasing
population, we have droughts -
can biotechnology offer any
solutions for this?\"
PROFESSOR MIROSLAV RADMAN
\"Sincerely, I think \'yes\'. The
resources are there - huge
numbers of genes closed in the
boxes of species. Now we have
the knowledge we can become
egotistic, we can be very
egotistic. Every species is
egotistic, and this is true of our
species. There\'s an immense
challenge in doing evolutionary
biotechnology which would be
symbiosis engineering. Why not
symbiotically associate in the
same organism photosynthesis
that uses just sunlight and water
and CO2 in order to make sugars.
Plants are doing this, algae are
doing this - and associate this
with something that yeast is doing
and that is fermentation. Such
that, sugars that are made this
way, in a very ecological way, are
fermented into ethanol or butanol
- and use them directly as a
source of energy. You need only
sunlight. We can provide this
genetically engineered symbiont
to poor people in Africa - there\'s
plenty of sunlight - and they could
have independent energy. All of
these are fantastic challenges, but
this is an example. What I really
want to say is evolutionary
biotechnology, making our home-
made evolution for our own
purpose, just as it was made in
Nature for natural evolution -
there\'s nothing wrong in doing
that because that\'s the way we
could solve many of the
problems.\"