Dr. Anand Ranganathan - Designer Babies, Nicotine Addiction & More | TRS 342 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Dr. Anand Ranganathan - Designer Babies, Nicotine Addiction & More | TRS 342".
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Anand Ranganathan x Ranveer Allahbadia begins (00:00)
The fact of the matter is, if 104 million people are diabetic, the nation is facing catastrophe. We eat wrong, we drink wrong and drugs are not the answer. I mean by drugs I mean medicine. I thought you meant some. No, no, no, I'm kidding. I smoke beauty because of that but my God, beauty is dangerous. That impressionable age, everyone's looking at your role models are Chris Gayle and... Visualizing Chris Gayle and going, yeah man, I'm nice. Kamla Pasand. But of course the coup d'etat was James Bond, Pierce Brosnan. He was roped into this Kamla Pasand. Really? Yes! And it was in Kanpur, all the billboards, and everybody was like, my God, James Bond is having this. And later it turned out that they kind of tricked him. They said, sir, this is some mint, some mint product and all that. Very, I mean a year later it came out. So James Bond did not know that this is Gutt Ka but it was brilliant. The guy who managed it, salute to you. Everyone knows Dr. Anand Raghunathan as one of the country's leading political commentators. This one is not a political conversation at all. It's a conversation centered around his career as a chemistry expert, as a scientist, as a human being. He spoke about everything from the future of genetic engineering to his experience dealing with a massive heart attack. It's a very different Anand Ranganathan avatar that you'll see on this particular episode. We'll be back with political conversations later this time. Just get to know Dr. Anand Ranganathan, the professional scientist. Non-political conversation with the emperor of political conversations, but also the emperor of, I want to say chemistry, but it's not chemistry. I don't know how many people know about your scientific side, Anand Ranganathan, sir. Not many, but I think I'd like to keep it that way. Why? It's something that's very specialized, you know. So I, in fact, even on my Twitter bio, I don't say that I'm a scientist and things of that sort because it's something that is serious. It's something that is very dear to me. It's almost like it's been passed on because my parents were both scientists. So it's something that's very special. After your PhD in chemistry? Biochemistry. Biochemistry. You switched and went into biotech. Well, yeah, so the job was in an institute of biotechnology. But again, as I said, most of these things are so intertwined. And, you know, so biology, chemistry, biotechnology, bioengineering. Okay. It's all the same thing. Let's start with a spicy question and then we can take down what biotech is also. Was COVID-19 a bioweapon?
In-Depth Discussion With Anand Ranganathan
Was Covid-19 a bioweapon? (03:13)
No. No, it wasn't. No, it wasn't. It obviously could be used as a bioweapon. It leaked from a lab this much as certain. Whether it was manmade or whether it was made through nature, I have my doubts on whether it was manmade. But having said that, there are Nobel laureates who know much more than I do. Baltimore is one who called the preponderance of two amino acids side by side as having the smoking gun that this was made, this COVID strain was made in the lab. I personally don't believe that to be true as yet, but certainly it escaped from the Wuhan lab. No doubt about it. Okay. Now, if it escapes, was it allowed to escape or was it an accident? If it was allowed to escape, then certainly it's a bioweapon. But if it escaped accidentally, then also what followed was definitely intentional. Because after it escaped, for the next one and a half months, China did not put any restrictions whatsoever. So millions of people use the Wuhan airport or other airports, there were no restrictions. And by that, China allowed the virus to spread. So was that the thinking, was that bioweapon or not? That's always debatable, right? But knowing China, you can't put anything past them, can you? I think you answered this bioweapon question based on chemistry and biology. But then emotionally speaking, you answered the question in another way. For example, as I like to say that theorists have to be right every time and conspiracy theories has to be right only once. You know, like the police have to be successful every time, the terrorists only once. So like that. So the conspiracy theory is that China let it leak deliberately. Hmm. Which is just so awful, because not only did so many Chinese die, but it wrecked the world economy directly and indirectly millions died. What did this whole COVID-19 phase do for your job in terms of your subject, biotechnology? I'm sure there have been some advancements or some learnings from a pandemic. Yes. In fact, to be honest with you, I did not know very much about this field, virology, especially COVID and this virus, this kind of virus. But I have to also say this that with my very close collaborator, Professor Shailja Singh and Professor Govardhan Das, especially with Professor Shailja Singh, we decided that look, doctors who are just doctors, they might be gynecologists, they might be orthopedics, they might be, you know, for children, for everything, they have come together and they are helping Indians, you know, they've come together for a cause. So even though we are not virologists, you know, I'm by training a chemist, now a biologist and Shailja is a parasitologist and a biologist. Can we get into this field? It was almost like a challenge. So without knowing much about this field, we got into this field of COVID trying to discover something and I'm very happy to say that we've managed to unearth, discover a molecule that is more potent than Remdesivir and we've kind of sent it off for publication. So yeah, I mean, that quote unquote good thing came out of this that we learned a lot about virology, about COVID and we decided that personally, it was very pleasing that if a scientist wants to go into an area which he knows nothing about, he can still, there is always time to learn, you know, so that was something that good, something good came out. You said you discovered a molecule. Yes.
His professional life (07:10)
That's what your job entails going into the molecular world and changing things and figuring new chemicals? Yes, yes, at one level, yes. So my laboratory is involved in what is called directed evolution, which is that although evolution takes millions of years, sometimes a billion years, but through great technologies pioneered by error prone PCR, as well as, you know, William Stemmer's sexual PCR, basically, you can speed up evolution. By that I mean that, let me give you an example. So you have a bacteria that let us say will die if you were to administer two micrograms of penicillin, because penicillin is an antibiotic, you give that thing to the bacteria and the bacteria dies. Then what happens is there are through the natural course of evolution, bacteria have developed resistance to every known drug that includes penicillin. In fact, five years after the public administration of penicillin, there were strains that were resistant to penicillin. So when they unearthed, when they dug deeper into these strains, they found out that there was a gene that was producing a protein, an enzyme that was killing penicillin. That gene is called TEM1 or beta-lactamase because penicillin is a beta-lactam, so it was destroying this beta-lactam, it's called beta-lactamase. So this bacteria that dies with two microgram of penicillin, if you insert this gene in that bacteria through plasmid, it can withstand two micrograms of penicillin because the penicillin goes inside the bacteria, the bacteria is making this enzyme and it breaks down this penicillin. But if you were to increase the concentration to let's say 20 micrograms of penicillin, bacteria will die because penicillin is just too much that even that enzyme will not be able to kill that thing. There is a technique, as I said, William Stemmer introduced this called sexual PCR that you break down this gene, you reassemble it, you induce mutations in this beta-lactamase gene and within an hour, you can create and he created a bacteria that was able to withstand one million times the concentration of penicillin. You're basically improving the immunity of that bacteria and I'm assuming for the human side of things, you're basically working towards improving long-term human immunity in multiple ways. So basically what it told you was that it demonstrated evolution for you because it is accumulation of helpful mutations, except that what took a billion years took one hour. True science. True science. Okay. Okay. So what we are trying to do is we are trying to using directed evolution, come up with various permutations and combinations of small peptides or molecules that would act like drugs and the difference that we've done is that instead of targeting the pathogens proteins, because we know what happens when you target a bacteria or a virus's proteins very quickly because of the virtue of their quick reproductive cycle, they develop resistance to it. We are targeting human proteins that help the bacteria gain infection and invasion. So you see because all these entities life forms have lived in symbiosis, right? So tuberculosis, it is impossible for tuberculosis or viruses to survive without human hosts. So there are human proteins that help these viruses and bacteria. So if you target those, the bacteria will not be able to change those human proteins to develop resistance. That's the idea. What does this mean for the college student listening to this? What it means is that humans have been friends of bacteria and viruses. Please don't hate viruses and bacteria, even though COVID has made you hate them. Please remember that 10% of human genome is actually viral genome. You know this 10%. I think I understand what you mean scientifically speaking. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's basically, it means that our ancestors who fell ill because of viruses, eventually those viruses just combined with our genome. And we have been able to survive a lot of infections because of our interaction with these pathogens. Okay. So we've gotten stronger as evolution went forward, but now evolution meets science. So how they go like, oh, NeuraLink is a chip you insert in your brain and then you become half man, half machine. You're saying that there's chemistry versions of it, but you can actually alter your genes, which is why I'm going to ask you a little bit about CRISPR. Yes.
What is Crisper Cas? (12:00)
Explain CRISPR because I think that this is the part of the podcast where college students really stand up and listen. So from basics explain CRISPR and I'm assuming it's related to what you've spoken to. Yes. In fact, I'm quite proud of this, that I think one of the first general articles on CRISPR was written by me in 2012, if I'm not mistaken. What is CRISPR? CRISPR-Cas is a mechanism by which you can actually do gene therapy. You can cut and paste, you can remove things from any gene and you can add things. It has gone to a level which is called gene drive technology, whereby you can actually what people have done is they have genetically engineered the female mosquito to not lay eggs. It's very scary. In fact, CRISPR-Cas9, there has been a lot of debate whether this should be allowed, whether human embryos should be allowed to be, you know, whether this technology should be allowed to be used on human embryos. But at least as of now, people, scientists, there is a consensus that we should allow this technology to prosper. So what I believe, looking forward ahead, because actually, when you said very interesting thought, very interesting way you put it, as scientists, you said you look at future. Science is future. Any discovery or invention is forward-looking. Very rarely do you find, I mean, of course, if you look at, you know, for example, science that involves also archaeology, or you're looking at trying to answer questions that happened previously in biology, I'm talking about, of course, Big Bang, when you're looking at, you're not looking at the future, you're looking at the past. But for example, did Saraswati exist? You know, this so-called mythical river. So you need scientific tools to prove that. And people have shown that incredibly, that yes, it was actually a glacial fed river, it was not a monsoon river. So that's, of course, going into the past. But in the domain of biology, drug discovery, and also that's looking for the future. So CRISPR would actually cure cancer completely. I'm of the view. In the next 15 years, malaria would not exist. In the next 20 years, tuberculosis would not actually exist. So till now, if I'm not mistaken, one of the very few diseases that only exist in a while is smallpox. It doesn't exist anywhere else. So completely cured. Humanity was completely polio. They thought we have cured it. There is no polio anymore. But few segments of population came out where the population was not vaccinated properly, I think in Nigeria, in Pakistan, where polio still exists. But very quickly, if the government have that thrust, then you can eradicate polio. But very few diseases have been eradicated. But CRISPR-Cas9 has because of gene therapy potential, cutting and pasting of things, it will cure these diseases. I'll tell you what my challenge with the Science Podcast are. As a nerd, I enjoy the shit out of it. Science background, everything, etc. As a podcaster, I have to constantly take it into science fiction domains because that's what grips the masses. So that's why my line of questioning is going to be very science fiction oriented. So, uh, okay. Correct me if I'm wrong, but basically within every cell of your body exists a DNA strand within the mitochondria, if I'm not mistaken, the inside the nucleus. I'm sorry, yes, inside the nucleus exists the DNA strand. Yes. Uh, that DNA strand has all the information about you, how long your nose would be, how your eyes would look, what texture your hair is, your skin color, etc. And many things related to how your thought process is also possible, related to your immunity, etc. Now you are the combination of your two parents, four grandparents, uh, more great-grandparents. Yes. And nine generations back 81 people, roughly 81 people have combined to make you. So you're a combination of a lot of genes and now human beings and science have reached a point where you take that DNA strand and you alter it. So if you want a really good looking baby, you can make it. If you want a really healthy baby that never falls ill, you can make it. Why is this a bad thing? Why is there even a debate that this is a bad thing? Okay. So there are two ways to answer it. Sure. Number one, yeh sab apni kiya uske baad result kiya aayega? That is the question. And it is too quick, too soon in terms of scientific timeline to be able to trust CRISPR-Cas 100%. Okay. And I'll tell you why. I think three or four years ago, there was a paper in Nature Communications that talked about a lot of offsite, offsite patlab. So you expect CRISPR-Cas9 to act where you want it to act. Offsite means it is not only acted there, it's acted a few other places on the human genome. You never want that. One second. The way CRISPR works is your DNA strand is a series of bits of information. Yes. And CRISPR has the ability to go in the DNA strand, cut things through chemicals. Like imagine a scissor but chemically made. It is like a scissors. Yes. And also imagine cellotape chemically made and it has enough way to put things in that place. Absolutely. Okay. But you're saying when you cut off a particular part of it, maybe you want your kid to be really tall. So you cut off the short gene, you put a tall gene there, but you don't know what the effect of the tall gene will be on his liver. That will come later. Of course that is there. What I'm saying is the process itself, how you identify where your CRISPR-Cas9 must go and bind, it can bind to 5 or 10 other places. Okay. So it might insert itself or cut a gene that you never intended to be removed. Right? So for example, just to give you one example, which is a horrid Frankenstein kind of thing, you wanted a long nose. Yes, your CRISPR-Cas9 has gone there and has altered so that gene, but it has also gone and bound to a place that gave you an eye. But I'll tell you a lot of things are happening in animals, which are quite scary to add on because they have a profound sociological society effect. Ours and also a lot of societies are besotted with skin color. Now there are two genes that are responsible for giving the color that we have, right? They are to do with melanin degradation and production and all that. And when man left, man or woman left Africa and went to cooler climes and those, they were mutations in those genes. CRISPR-Cas9 has actually rendered brown mice white. Hasn't turned them into phyrrongs? Yes. So the human angle on this is? It's phenomenal. Tomorrow, you know, you would want CRISPR-Cas9. And, you know, why do you think the largest selling creams in our country are skin whitening creams? We have this morbid fascination with, I mean, I don't want to take any names, but you look at Kajol's first film and you look at Kajol's last film, you can barely make out if it's Kajol. So I don't know how that happened. You know, computer graphics is not so good. But the fact of the matter is cream can do one thing. Genetically is like 100% your skin color is white. As in will a fully grown adult be able to use CRISPR technology? Yes. Yes. So the point is, if it is in your progenitor cells, I mean stem cells or some things of that sort, then every cell is going to be producing that. So not only would your babies come out to be white, every generation would come out to be white. But the problem is then you would say, well, what kind of shade of white do I want? I mean, of course, it is morally repugnant. But I'm saying that you are in a marketplace, you know, you're going to demand that you are going to use a pillar white. And plus the offsite effects could be debilitating. I gave you the example of you know, your eye could be lost. And these are the kind of experiments that people were doing on fruit fly, Drosophila, geneticists, developmental. So this is into the domain of developmental biology, as they call it. And people would routinely discover that if you were to tinker with some genes of Drosophila, you would get four wings, you would get 10 legs, you would, because remember, and this is so utterly fascinating. We, biologists were made to think that you have one gene and you have one product of that gene. So if you have 5000 genes in your cell, you would have 5000 proteins because that is how it works. You have the gene DNA, from DNA you get RNA and from RNA you get that protein. So people thought if you had gene X, you would get protein X. Then they found out this concept called alternate splicing. That is how the RNA that is made is spliced to give you the protein. I mean, very roughly speaking, they found one gene in Drosophila, one gene that gives rise to 38,000 proteins. And alternate splicing happens in human cells as well. So when I say humans have 23,000 genes, it actually doesn't mean we have 23,000 proteins. We could have a million proteins. Okay. To explain this very simply, I'd once spoken to a guy who was very fascinated with biohacking. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this alternate splicing, does it also imply that I think the gene linked to AIDS was also linked to how much muscle mass you can put on or something like that. So basically if you make someone immune of AIDS, they'll become like a bodybuilder also. Quite possible. So if I'm not, because I'm not in that field, but I think they were CXX5 receptors that were important for the AIDS virus or the HIV to latch on to the thing. So if the human cell did not have those receptors, the virus will not be able to enter those things. Then they found out a few humans in Africa who naturally did not have that CXX5 gene. They had deletion of that, so they could not get AIDS. But you're right, when they found out at their physical phenotype of that, they had that same problem. Like the muscle or musculature was linked to AIDS. Most of these proteins moonlight, by that I mean they are used for five or six functions. Gotcha. You know, so you might inactivate a protein thinking that this is the function that now will not happen, but the other four useful functions also may not happen. Which is why CRISPR is a technology that's still being developed, I'm assuming. And when this paper came out that talked about the offsite repercussions of CRISPR, the company that was actually based on CRISPR, I think it lost 90% of its stock value. Wow. So markets are ruthless. Fascinating thing that has happened. And when you're talking about, you know, future and science, we haven't even realized that we are as a population, stronger, fitter, increased lifespan, but then we are more prone to diseases. You mean in India? India, India. Okay. So there's a wonderful series of pie charts that were made about the type of diseases Indians were having. And before liberalization of 1991 and now. So there is a pie chart of 1991 and there's a pie chart of 2020, right? And the difference could not be starker. So before we were liberalized, before, you know, we were wealthier and we had more money and we could go to more hospitals and more cure ourselves, 70% of the diseases that affected Indians were communicable diseases like tuberculosis. As in the transosome one human to another. Yes, you know, poor society, you don't have, you know, so you're prone to a lot of diarrhea, a lot of communicable diseases through water, airborne, whatever infections. 30% were lifestyle or non-communicable diseases, heart attack, obesity, diabetes. 30 years after liberalization of us getting richer, it's just completely flipped. 70% of our disease, the diseases that affect Indians are actually non-communicable diseases. So when we think of science has to cure malaria, we have to cure cancer, we have to cure heart ailment, we are, because we are getting fitter, we're getting more obese. We are eating all sorts of junk food. We, you know, today's report that 104 million Indians are diabetic. There's a Lancet paper that's come out. They did a survey from 2008 to 2018 and they've actually done a survey of 104,000. So one more than a lakh Indians, rural and urban split population and 104 million are diabetic, 150 million Indians are pre-diabetic. This is catastrophe. Don't you think it's also like a lack of knowledge, like correct knowledge? Like you'll, you'll see like, so I see a lot of older Indians thinking that they know everything about diets and food, but I'm also a certified fitness professional because of the start of my career. And they have a lot of wrong ideas. Then I get to meet people like yourself, health coaches, a lot of the stuff that those guys are saying are not being followed by uncles and aunties. No, no, but I mean, I am not deep. Let me clarify this. I have no life. I have no exercise. I have been forced to exercise for reasons that I had a problem, a heart attack. But before that, I never, as I said, I'm not a beer person. I'm not a biceps person. But the fact of the matter is if 104 million people are diabetic, the nation is facing catastrophe. And this is not, this is not a newspaper article, a Lancet paper. There is no research and the person who's done a research, Dr. Mohan is a very established diabetologist. We have to look into this. You know, with people my age generally, and I'm also talking about tier two and tier three, okay. Because I've gone there and seen things on ground. It's really looked down upon to not take care of your health now. Really? Yeah. That's good. That's a great thing. Which is not the case even like five, 10 years ago. Yes. The young India more so really looked down upon if you're like not in shape. Yeah. I think it's like a compass about where India is going. I think that's good. I mean, exercising is good. You, you kind of, you know, you generally through you throughout your life by virtue of our lifestyle, we violate our bodies. You know, we sleep, you know, less, we sleep wrong. We eat wrong, we drink wrong. So something has to be done. And drugs are not the answer. I mean, by drugs, I mean medicine. Bit of an intrusive question, of course. What did the heart attack feel like?
His heart attack experience (28:00)
Well, it was, I had said my goodbyes, you know, I had said goodbye to my wife. I struggled for about half an hour. I didn't know what that pain was. In fact, to an extent that I was smoking during the heart attack. So it all started first during the, in fact, it was ebbing of the Delta wave. So everything was shut down and the hospitals were catering to COVID patients and Delta wave, as you know, was horrendous, absolutely horrendous. So many people we know died during that. And it was during that that I had the heart attack. What does it feel like when it first starts happening? So the pain is absolutely intense, nothing like I had felt ever before. And it's like somebody's sitting on your chest and crushing you. It's throbbing pain. And it's not, how shall I put it, it's not as a physical injury. It's like, I don't know where it's coming from. It's like from the depths of your body, God knows where. So I thought what the hell is going on? And I had a smoke, didn't go away. Then I lay down, I had a bath during the heart attack. I said, this is so weird. I couldn't explain it. And then when I started vomiting, then I realized this is something absolutely serious. So then I immediately drove to the hospital and my wife was next to me. And then I knew something is serious that is happening. And 100 meters before I reached the hospital, I lost all sensation of my limbs. Really? It was like they were on the steering wheel. You were driving? Yeah, I was driving. My wife claims she knows how to drive. She has a driver's license. You're not supposed to say this, but if she was driving, then I would have not died of heart attack, but through an accident. So I think it was good that I drove. Sorry. No, but then luckily the car was automatic. So somehow we reached there. And when we reached there, the normal regular emergency of the hospital was converted into COVID emergency. So we had to find where the other emergency is. The cafeteria had been converted into an emergency room for the normal non-COVID patients. So then they immediately gave me a medicine that would dilate my blood vessels and I think produce nitric oxide or something. I forget the name of the thing. Biologically, what is a heart attack? So basically it's clogging of your artery. So there are three main arteries that follow from something called LD. And one of the arteries is LAD. And this turned out to be 100% blockage of the LAD. Basically over time because of lifestyle, food, whatever. Yeah. I mean the food intake, smoking. I was a smoker for 30 years. The last cigarette I smoked was during the heart attack. So I haven't smoked for two years. Poetic. Serves me right. In fact, it's been exactly two years. Today? No, May, May end. 29th May was the one. That would have been a little too poetic. Yeah, correct. I'm not having fun of your situation. No, no, no. This is all. So I tried to resist death, to be honest with you. I was painting someone do something like people sitting on my thing. And then after 5-10 minutes lying on that hospital bed, then there was a strange eerie calm that descended on me because I said I have fought whatever I could. This is not going to end. Eerie calm. Yeah, because I mean the pain wasn't going away. And there's only so much you can then flutter and kind of do things. And I said goodbye. Like you submitted to the pain? Yes, I submitted. And then the next thing I remember was, I mean, of course, I don't remember morphine was also given to me for the pain, was the doctor came and he did the angioplasty through the wrist, not through the thigh. And what does that even mean, bro? So what they do is they insert a balloon that breaks the plaque that has the cholesterol or the deposits there. And then they put a stent there, kind of a physical stent there that would reopen that passage. And they insert it from your thigh. They used to, now they do it from the wrist. As in they put it in your bloodstream so it goes to your heart. So they have a wire. So they take it to, yeah, it's pretty incredible. And mine was supposed to be the fastest angioplasty they have done in that hospital's history. I'm very thankful to one Dr. Kachru. He saved my life, Ranjan Kachru, he's an incredible person. Well, that's the thing. And I had never exercised in my life before that. I was smoking for 30 years. And that was the peak of COVID and all that. So that's the story. And it's a huge lesson. You know, you asked me earlier that what's the secret of your saying whatever you want to say. I've always been of that disposition. But now it's just, I don't give a damn. I saw. I mean, once you say your goodbyes, every day is a blessing. I've had a lot of soldiers on this show say that, this exact concept. Has been spoken about. But you know, I'll tell you, there's a difference there because, of course, soldiers are my heroes. But if you death by accident, you still lament. You know, you still think, oh, it's unfortunate. It should not happen when you die of an accident or something. Previously, once I nearly died of drowning. I didn't know how to swim and I was in a raft and I was rafting quite foolishly. And this wave came and kind of turned over the raft and all that stuff. And I thought I'd stop breathing, you know, survived somehow. But there I wanted to live. You know, I wanted to fight that because you feel it's unfortunate. It shouldn't happen to you. Here, what do you want to do? Would you lament eating burgers and smoking for 30 years in that instant? You can't take, you can't renew that life, right? You can't say, oh, look, I'm sorry I ate burgers and I had Mysore parks and I had smoked for 30 years and this is the result. Please don't do this. No, there is a calmness that descends on you. There's a submission. That's the word. You know, when you submit and then you survive, then that day is, every day is a blessing. This whole conversation made me think about cigarettes and vaping. Yes. Fortunately, I've not had a cigarette phase in life. I don't know, just by chance. Do you know what vaping is? Yes. Okay. Do you know that everyone's into vaping now? Okay. Let me clarify. I don't know whether it's like the definition has changed by vaping. E-cigarette is vaping. Yeah. But the modern day cigarettes are much better looking, much better tasting, and it gives you maybe a sharper high. There are certain brands, and you get those very easily. You get these like 2000 rupee cartridges, which will last you a long time. So the jewels. Yeah, jewels. I actually tried it when I was smoking the e-cigarette, but it was horrible because I could not regulate the amount of nicotine that was going in. So it was kind of, what does that mean? So, you know, your body gets used to the nicotine that is there in every, you know, cigarette. And it's like, you can, I'm comfortable. I used to be comfortable smoking one cigarette, but I was never a chain smoker. So I would get horrible, feel nausea if I smoked three cigarettes in one go. You know, you like taking in more nicotine than is required. So e-cigarette, I could not regulate that. So I stopped that. I went back to smoking. Because you keep pulling like e-cigarettes and you don't know where to stop. Yeah. Basically. Correct. Okay. Personally, I would say logically, e-cigarettes would be safer than cigarettes because you're not burning anything. The carcinogens that are coming, are coming from the cigarette smoke and the ash and the burning of it, nicotine is not a carcinogen. Of course, nicotine is the most addictive substance on earth. So, you know, even e-cigarettes are dangerous in that sense. Also, it's not clear what else is in that e-cigarette, especially the ones that come out of China. No one knows specifically what's gone into making it. So I think that no one knows anything that comes out of China, what it is, except COVID. But I think the world has, I see fewer people smoking. Cigarettes generally for sure. 10 years back when I was in engineering college, everyone was into it. Yes. I think people have moved on to marijuana. That's the truth. Is that a live confession you're making? I've spoken about it. Like this is back in college. You know, it's very embarrassing for me because I did not, I smoked marijuana to get high, to see the experience, but I didn't get high. Then a couple of my friends were smoking it through that damn secondhand smoke I got high. Yeah, but it was damn if they laugh at me, they say, "You're smoking so much, it's not illegal to smoke." It's becoming very popular in India and it's constantly becoming more and more popular. Like I go to like tier two, tier three. It's not illegal. It is illegal. No, even smoking is illegal. Cigarettes? No, marijuana. Yeah, it's illegal. It's still, I think, what's it called? Category A, category one. So it's categories in the same place as cocaine. I thought having some quantity is illegal or something like in the West. What is the... I saw a recent reel. You've seen that Pulp Fiction clip, right? Yeah. Between Travolta and Samuel Jackman. So, wait a minute. So, your smoking is not illegal. Him catching you is illegal. He says, "That's it. I'm going to Amsterdam. F*** it, I'm going to Amsterdam." Yeah, iconic movie. It was just a bunch of micro podcast put together in that movie. Anyway, no, but you talk about cigarette. I think cigarettes, I'll tell you about marijuana. Yeah. It is illegal. Even if you're caught with a little bit. If you've got smoking, it's still illegal. You can be fined. I believe you got to bail yourself out. There is an illegal angle to it. And in saying that, Bhaang is getting legalized. It's already legal in MP, Rajasthan. I believe UP as well because I've gone to Manaras and seen a legal... So, Bhaang is marijuana? What's the... cannabis is marijuana, is it? It's one species and imagine different... Caucasian, Asian, African. That's the raw explanation. But it's the same high because the active molecule is the same, just THC. So, when some Uncle Aunty get high on Holi, through Bhaang, it's the same thing that kids are doing in colleges all over the country today. Very secretly. Because, especially like people born before 1980, you guys were really told that weed, marijuana, cannabis is a category A drug. So, you can't have a conversation often with people from that era about this not being as harmful as coke. But in saying that... Plus it's difficult. It was difficult to procure as well. Really? Yes. In our time, I remember, I mean, unless you grew it, some of my friends were growing it in college, but it was routinely kind of spotted and then as the as the C.I. used to do in Colombia, you know, you kind of burn, scorch the whole place. Why are cigarettes addictive? Nicotine. Like what is the addiction? For example, if you ask me about alcohol, it kills off your inhibitions for that four hours, five hours that you're drunk. Pot maybe makes... Like cannabis makes you more creative, it makes you think deeper. But I've never understood... LSD. Sure. That's you. That's not me. So, you know, Beatles, I mean, the phase in the 60s where everyone was on drugs. So Beatles, obviously everyone was experimenting. And this iconic song Lucy in the Sky with diamonds. Lucy in the Sky with diamonds. Yeah. So it's LSD. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Lucy, Sky, diamonds. Psychedelics have caught on as a culture as well by the way, even in India. Dear parents. You're watching Anand Ranganathan on TRS, let me just slip that in. Kids have done a lot more shit than you can imagine. I remember the first, my first cigarette I remember. It was done by a rascal friend of mine, my dear. And he said, "Pile yaar kuch nahi hoga maza aayega." And it was during those Mandel, anti-Mandal protests and colleges were closed and all that. And we were having banana somewhere in a dhaba. Sarai lele ek kashki panama ke kashki kasam ki cigarette mein kaha ye dham. If I catch that rascal, I'm going to like smack his bottom like Tom and Jerry, this thing. That was 1990. Did you think of him in hospital? Not in hospital, but I blame him for this. Wow. Really? Yeah. Everyone has a trigger friend. Even I have my bunch of trigger friends. I've been the trigger for many people in other formats because I never caught on to the cigarette high. Maybe because I think my mom had always built it into my head. I mean, in that age, it was fashionable. Everyone was smoking, as you said, correctly said. And nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on earth. So it's just a combination of four or five things. It was just completely, it was fashionable. And you've seen that Clint Eastwood, you know, taking the che root from one end of his lips to the other. And Amitabh Bachchan doing this. Diwar mein. So it was all built in. Everything is built into the, you know, the age. Like the cool factor made you do it. Totally cool. Yeah. Wow. Okay. I smoke beauty because of that, but my God, beauty is dangerous. Why? It's just the high, it hits you like crazy. A, it's much more unhealthy. There is no filter there. The tar must be like 35 milligrams tar. But, you know, every, that impressionable age, everyone's looking at your role models are, you know, your Amitabh Bachchan at that age, we had it. And every cinema actor was, you know, chewing beauties from one end to the other. So cut to 2023, where Ronaldo's taking cold drinks and putting it on the side and Koli is not endorsing sugary things. But now this new thing has started where this Kamala Pasand, I think, who was it? Chris Gayle and Kapil Dev and Suhil Gavaskar. So they have come into these ads. So people criticize them. I don't know. One is I'm ambivalent towards it. I mean, do you, this role model business. So does it mean that if somebody is, you know, come in an ad for something, that person is using that ad or using that product or is endorsing it other than, you know, in his real life as well? It's strange. I'm visualizing Chris Gayle going, yeah man, Kamala Pasand. Chris Gayle is an exception because if he's using that, he's a universe boss. So, you know, I mean, there would be millions following him, but I mean, Kapil Dev using that, I don't know, or Suhil Gavaskar. Okay. Okay. Let's talk about that. That's why Akshay Kumar also got a lot of flack for Kesari. What was that? Zulu Zulu Zulu. And you know, this kind of Churchill salute. But funny thing is Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn never got the flack for this. When Akshay Kumar joined them, he so much so that he said all the proceeds that I get from this, I will give it away to charity. But of course, the coup d'etat was James Bond, Pierce Brosnan. He was roped into this Kamala Pasand. Really? Yes. And it was in Kanpur, all the billboards. Anybody thought, my God, James Bond is having this. And later it turned out that they kind of pricked him. They said, sir, this is some mint, some mint product and all that. Very, I mean, a year later it came out. So James Bond did not know that this is Guttka, but it was brilliant. The guy who managed it salutes to you. Guttka companies make a lot of money. Oh, it's incredible. You build a product that can be addictive and you'll be rich. Yeah. But this is like truly biologically addictive. Yes. Okay. Let's speak about the future of humanity now. Okay. Where are we going, sir? What's the scientist in you looking forward to? I think I don't see a lot of change. I mean, of course, look, India will reach the living standards of the West very soon, 20 years, 15, 20 years.
Future of Humanity (45:11)
And then the Nordic, this thing, then other things would start. I mean, you see in America, the discussion now is not about schools and hospitals or curing diseases. It's about work culture. It's about who is a man, who's a woman. Yesterday, I saw some woman, I even forget her name. She's rearing her two boys as girls, you know, and there are these operations, sex change operations that they are doing on children. So those are the new problems that will crop up in quote unquote advanced societies. And it hasn't reached our shores yet, because we are more concerned about survival. You know, ours is a cylinder and gas cylinder and tap water and toilet society right now. When you talk of future 20-30 years down the line, it won't be that. What would be the repercussions of that? So what about biotech specifically? Like what's happening? Yeah, so biotech, I mean, human clones would be very common. Really? Yeah. How far away from that? Technologically, we are not more than five years away. What? Yeah. Technologically? Yeah. How is a clone made? So for, I mean, to give you an example, Dolly, the clone sheep, it required, I think 150 failed experiments to come up with one successful fertilization. Indians cloned a cow they named Ganga just two weeks ago. Of course, that was 20 years after Dolly. But human embryos, I mean, the embryos, there were reports that in China, they've already started doing it. That's why stringent regulatory means are there. But sooner or later, these regulations never help, right? I mean, you always find people, nuclear science is one example. You use it for good purposes, you used it for bad purposes. Science, that's the thing with science, you can always use it. You can always, there's always a crossroad. You can always go, people will, as a country, as a nation, will take you in the other direction. You can't do anything about it. What's the point of cloning? So you will always find justification and rationalization. For example, I can give you five or six points immediately if you get to know. So the moment you are pregnant, you can take a little bit of biopsy or some fluid off the growing embryo or infant or something, find out he is going to suffer or he is going to suffer from this genetic disease or he will be blind. You do CRISPR-Cas9, you remove that, you know, thing. So you get a clone which is not going to be suffering a disease. So you will always find justification. As in you kill the original baby. You transform it, genetically engineer it. Okay. Yeah. One second. I thought cloning was if they take a cell from my body. In 2093, when I'm 100 years old and I die, maybe my family wants to have me in their life again. Right. So they can clone me and have a new version like my grandkids can then raise me as a f*** of mine speaking on this podcast. But I would always assume that that's the application of cloning. For example, people are attached to their pets. I ask you a very eerie question. Sure. How do you know that? I mean, this is basically almost like Descartes, you know, Cartes said, I think therefore I am. Because he asked a very simple question. How do I know that this whole world is a dream? How do I? So that's why I said, I think therefore I exist. But how do I know that you're not already from the previous world? Am I already a clone? Yeah. I mean, you know, maybe. But let me tell you. Kind of look Chinese a little bit. But you know, some really breathtaking research happened in very prestigious peer reviewed geologists say that the memories are encoded in your DNA. Your DNA is carrying the memory of your ancestors, at least in animals. They proved it in, I think, hamster. If it is true for humans as well, that there is a certain sequence of DNA that is coding for the memory that your great-great-great-great-great-grandfather had. Isn't that unbelievable? You know, there's a video game made about this. It's called Assassin's Creed. Same concept. I see. They find a guy of Italian origin in America, would make him sit in a machine. And then you can access his memories of his ancestors who were part of a Assassin's Guild 500 years ago in Leonardo da Vinci's time. For a hamster, it is true. And it is so unsettling. Why is it unsettling? Because as my grandmother at least told me a story that, you know, one infant was born. I mean, when baby was born and after six months she told the location, "You have to go to the place where you are born. You have to go there, there, there. What do you do with your baby?" Is that because she was carrying the memory? If you're carrying the memory of your ancestor, it's A. To code a memory which is abstract, right? I mean, can you define what memory is? Visual plus sound plus hormonal. What is it stored as? You know, bits and bytes. Like I'm thinking as an engineer. Right. But I mean, where are those bits and bytes? How are they? It's like the thought. There is no physicality that we associate to the thought, right? It's not brick and mortar. So that thought, obviously the thought exists in my mind as what? Electrical signals. Correct. Now, if I were to say that that thought also existed as a physical entity, which is a string of bases, that's unbelievable. That means when science progresses enough, you'll be able to access visuals from 300 years ago. Not only visuals, but coded visuals. I mean, there's like ATGC, ATGC, CCC, ATGC, CCC. You know, your great, great, great grandfather was smoking cannabis. Why did you pick that example? My mom's watching. No, I'm kidding. It's her great, great grandfather. Exactly. So you can say, why are you blaming just me? Blame everyone down the line. This is why the progress of science is so interesting. Yeah. Because there's so many mysteries to unlock. Yes. And also, you know, this thing about energy, we are going to solve it very soon. You know, I mean, one way or the other, we are not going to need thermal energy anymore, coal. And I think one of the reasons why you have this race to go to the moon is I forget you have the lunar dust or the surface, you can actually access energy that would be sufficient for the next 100 years on earth. I think helium something. Helium-3. Helium-3, isn't it? Yeah. So basically, moon has been taking all that radiation from the sun, helping us, but you know, all that lunar surface is rich with that energy source. So if you mind that, you know, you don't need but I think we don't even need to go that far off. We have some new things science would come up with that we wouldn't, I mean, cold fusion, of course, is not yet a reality. But very quickly, we would get to something. Okay. I want to take you back a little bit to cloning again. Yes. Like I would assume that one very simple application of cloning is that you're attached to your dog, your dog becomes old, he's about to die. Yeah. You can clone him after he passes away and you can have the exact same dog. Yes. Same behavior, same personality. This is the beauty of it. You see, your association with that dog is not just based on the physical appearance of that dog. It is the experiences you've had together. The love, you know, love is not just when you see the baby, of course, if it's your baby, you love it. But love grows. What does that mean? You know, it means that every association, every act of that baby, or that dog, or the person you are associated with, that kind of brings a composite picture of your endearment towards that. So when you clone a dog, it would be like on day zero, would you be in love with that day zero dog? Or would you love that day zero dog as much as that day 200 dog or whatever that died? It's a fascinating question. Because his previous versions memories are stored in his new versions DNA. That is there, but he might not have the same experiences as the previous version has. You know, I mean, of course, there is epigenetic thing, and there is a lot of environmental factors that, you know, dictate how society, not all, not all societies progresses, but cells progress. What's the point of cloning human beings? Could you turn them into slaves? Yes. That's the when you were talking about the wrong side of cloning. That's what you meant. Yes. So for example, especially if you get pissed off with army of people, zombies, zombies. Yeah. But then again, I mean, aren't there enough already? Army of zombies? I mean, I'm from JNU for heaven's sake. No, but sorry. That was a lighter note. The fact of the matter is that I think robotics will supersede that requirement. See with robots, and you've seen those amazing clips of I think, is it Boston robotics that comes up with these real life looking human looking bloody robots that are doing all sorts of crazy things, you know. Everyone's going to have one in the house. Oh my God. So in 10, 15 years time, you would have actually, you would have robots that are more powerful, physically more stronger than humans. So when you talk of needing to clone humans to get an army, you would have robots doing the same thing. So probably there was so much effort, money, energy put into learning more about cloning for again, genetic modification, which is the actual goal. See cloning, I mean, cloning humans is not so much a requirement as cloning for the purposes of drug discovery. So we do cloning all the time. Every day we are doing cloning of bacteria. Okay. You know, so we are cloning genes. We are cloning, we are finding new species of bacteria. All that is happening right now as we speak in my lab, in every lab. Gotcha. So that's, that is the part of cloning that is useful. Has application. Yeah. Okay. Do you want to talk a little bit about stem cells? Because I've only had health coaches come on and talk about how they discovered stem cell treatment and it helped their bodies, et cetera. It's also extremely expensive and slightly painful. Right. Would you like to begin in terms of the application first and then explain the science?
Stem cell therapy (56:31)
So I'm absolutely not well versed with this stem cell at all, except for the fact that I know just a little bit about the amazing discovery of my colleague, Professor Govardhan Das. That for many times, he's an immunologist and he works on tuberculosis. And the thing about TB is that you might think that you don't have tuberculosis, but if you have some other infection, 20-30 years down the line, pneumonia or something, suddenly you find you have tuberculosis as well. So the damn thing hides inside you, you know, and it is hiding inside you, me, most Indians as we speak. We have TB, except that it is in the granuloma. It's very calcified. It will not break up and come out and erupt till such time that your immunity is decreased. Most of the people who died of AIDS actually died of tuberculosis. So they had HIV, their immunity was lowered and their existing tuberculosis just came out and they died of TB. So what he has found is that one of the reasons and the secrets how TB manages to hide inside your bone marrow is it recruits stem cells and it goes and hides inside. What are stem cells? So stem cells are the progenitor cells from where all the other cells come from. So these are called mesenchymal stem cells. That's the limit of my knowledge about them. So I apologize for... They can turn into any kind of cells? Yes, that is what stem cell is. I know that they're in babies umbilical cords. Yes, so I mean basically anything is the progenitor is the stem cell. So you have eye cells, ear cells, brain cells, everything will emanate from that. Which is why in the future... Red blood cells also. In fact, the progenitor red blood cells that have the... Normally red blood cell doesn't have the nucleus and RNA DNA, right? So these ones have that as well. Okay, and that's why they're using biohacking for repair, healing, recovery. There is this thing about using stem cells to cure, I think, people who had debilitating spinal injuries or who could not walk or who were paralyzed and all. So there were some experiments done, but I'm not aware of the latest. I think Ames had come up with something. So I would have to go back and check on that. Gotcha. Okay, we're almost at the end of the episode. Is there any other science fiction oriented conversation that comes up in your life and that the world should know about a lot more? So my personal, I confess after having this hour long podcast is that I'm not a fan of science fiction. Because it's too wild? Because I deal with science facts. So science fiction sounds, I mean, ironically to say this, science fiction sounds fictional to me. I don't want science to be fictional. And I think I do like a little bit of disaster fiction as far as science is concerned. Like, you know, you have those films where something goes awry and you know, something goes wrong. And then there's someone who corrects it and all that stuff. Dinosaur, for example, Jurassic Park, I love that. That kind of science fiction, which is quite believable, quite believable. Will clones make Jurassic Park a reality? So I mean, it's absolutely doable. Like you can actually have Jurassic Park done now. Yes, yes. Science fiction. Yeah. So that's the kind of science fiction. Because so, for example, polio. Polio virus was recreated in the lab. They simply synthesize the virus RNA. Okay. Now, is that science fiction? No, because it is fact. They do it. Can you bring back dinosaurs to life? Yes. What would be the scientific process? But the problem with there is that you need a kind of a carrier. So you can have the dinosaur DNA, but that dinosaur DNA has to be in an egg, dinosaur egg that has to then supply it with nutrients. So unless you can have a kind of a chamber, like a womb, if you have a womb that can take in a human cell, I mean, why do we require wombs after you have in vitro fertilization? Why isn't an oven just enough? Because I mean, you can't have a human being without, I mean, coming from an oven, right? You need the womb. So it's not enough to have the dinosaur genome. I'm sure Jai Sai Deepak was born in an office. Bad joke. Go on. It's full of fire. Fiery doing. So pizza and Jai Sai Deepak. So yeah, I mean, you can have the you can reconstruct the dinosaur genome. Totally. Okay. The question is, if you were to put the dinosaur genome in a lizard, this thing, they're like related. Did that not happen with in Jurassic Park? I can't remember. I mean, dinosaur eggs, dinosaur, they're very small to begin with, right? I think Jurassic Park, they've shown the oven version of things, really, if I'm not mistaken. But I know that they're bringing mammoths back to life, right? By the same process that we spoke about. And the carrier is modern day elephants, like modern day female elephants. Right. So because there is this liger, right? Lion and tiger cover. Yeah. But the movie didn't do very well. Yeah, but but in reality, there is a progeny. Like you have a mule, horse and an ass. I think tiger and lion can mate as well if I'm not mistaken. I think that is what these modern day ligers are. Those ligers are huge. Massive, scary, the muscular. I've seen a tweet of a liger. They also have problems because of their size. Oh, really? Yeah. And ligers are present in zoos and I think they're sterile. They can't reproduce. I believe so. I might be wrong with that, but most of these crossbreeds are sterile. But who was the liger in this movie? Tiger Shroff? No, I can't remember. Vijay. Vijay. Oh, OK. Yeah. What were we talking about? I forgot what we were talking about. Dinosaur and mammoths. Yes, that's right. Maybe, maybe using stem cells, you create a dinosaur womb because it's a precursor to any kind of cell. And then, OK, so you want to clone humans? You want dinosaurs back? You want Yogi? You want Yogi Ajithina as a prime minister and dinosaurs and cloned humans are roaming the earth? This is why I love these conversations. All right. AR sir. That's it. That was today's science oriented discussion. Totally enjoyable. No, I'm glad. So much. I'm glad. Like, you know, only when it's people like yourself that I feature on the science podcast do people listen to conversations about science.
Thank you for watching (01:03:22)
So God bless Abhijit Chavda and yourself. That's what I would say. That was fantastic. Thank you, sir. All I want to say is looking forward to speaking to you again. This is not the last time we're meeting. Real pleasure. Likewise. And you must visit JNU. I'll arrange the visa for you. I'm worried about that. Yeah. No, it was great learning from you. And if I'm ever going to build a Jurassic park of my own, I will get in touch with you. So Anand sir, appreciate it. Thank you so much. Thank you. So that was the episode for today. Personally, I feel like this whole year for me going ahead from October, 2023 till probably the end of next year, it's going to be about celebrating Indian scientists and the world of science in general. So please send in your guest recommendations, be it Indian scientists or scientists from abroad.
End of the podcast (01:04:09)
I intend on probably doing a few America trips, maybe a few Europe trips. So if you have guest recommendations, let me know, and we will see on TRS very soon.