Gerard Senehi Wants People to Think While Being Entertained

Question: Do you distinguish between the real and unreal?

 

Gerard Senehi: I don’t draw a line between real and unreal and I think...I think I do that deliberately, very consciously because I’m provoking people. I’m provoking…I’m provoking them to question their ideas. I’m not giving them easy answers and also I’m entertaining them that’s part of what’s really interesting. Somebody told me early on that…I was at a fancy party and they said, “You know the reason we like what you do is because we know how to write book, we know how to operate on the human body, we know how to do all these things but we don’t understand what you do.”

And so, I think that’s part of what makes it fun and that’s part of what can create…It’s like art and beauty, you know. Art has the capacity to suspend our ideas. When we see something really beautiful, it has the capacity to make us feel like we don’t totally understand this and we can’t put it in a box. So, I like to do something that the people can’t put in a box and that’s what makes it good entertainment and has another added dimension because I like to make entertainment relevant for people.

 

Question: What is entertainment good for?

 

Gerard Senehi: I think entertainment has the capacity to evolve culture. So I think entertainment can be…can serve different functions. Entertainment can be used for escape, it can use for education. It can be used…and it can also be used to reflect deeper dimensions of who we are. I think and often I think in post modern culture, entertainment has slipped into some sort of feeling good, escape is--and I feel it’s important, it’s a great opportunity to say, “Wait a minute entertainment can be really cool, it can be dynamic, it can be intriguing, it could be creative, and it can help educate us or take culture forward.

 

Question: What are your goals as a mystic?

 

Gerard Senehi: I don’t know about 5 years but my goal is…my short term goal is to...is to try to generate momentum…Use public kind of a public success perhaps television work, to create a bit of kind of in the field of entertainment, create a movement of reflecting on deeper question, questioning reality, bringing attention to meaning, purpose, who we are or why we’re here in a creative fun way that’s not pedantic and that helps people to reflect on themselves and their own experience.

So that’s my goal and it’s something that I’ve always been interested in but recently I’ve been leaning into it and say how can I do that within my role as a kind of mystery entertainer.

 

Recorded on: June 4, 2009

 

The mentalist is leading a different sort of entertainment revolution.

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This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

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The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

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"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

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If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

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