Bodies and Dollars: Crash Course History of Science #41

Bodies and Dollars: Crash Course History of Science #41

After World War Two, the applications of basic
discoveries in biology took off—and became big business. Today, we’ll look at the rise of Big Pharma
and GMO foods. We’ll also discuss how life-science technologies
fundamentally changed reproduction: it’s time to invent In Vitro Fertilization and clone a sheep! [Intro Music Plays] When we left medicine and the brain sciences, one had antibiotics and the other had talk
therapy—which were major developments. But many disorders still lacked effective
treatments. That changed during the Cold War. Brain science took off, and several researchers
found, starting with animal models, that treating brains with different chemicals could affect
mood and behavior. One of the first blockbuster brain drugs was
a compound called chlorpromazine, better known by the brand name Thorazine. Approved for psychiatric use by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration in 1954, Thorazine is an antipsychotic. It reduced the need for electroconvulsive
treatment. More patients returned to their families. And it’s still used today. Another early blockbuster was meprobamate, the first of the “minor tranquilizers”—nowadays, called
anti-anxiety medications. Different companies marketed versions of meprobamate,
the biggest of which was Miltown. Miltown became the bestselling drug in the
U.S. Some historians estimate that five percent
of all Americans were on Miltown by the late 1950s. It became normal to take tranquilizers. There was even a Miltown Martini—the Miltini! Kids at home (and irresponsible adults): do
not put tranquilizers in alcohol! Tranquilizers were the first scientifically
created, advertising-promoted drugs for the “worried well”—people who mostly functioned
in society, such as problem children and those neurotics in talk therapy. Then in the early 1960s, drug company Roche developed diazepam, the first anti-anxiety drug of the benzodiazepine family. “Bennies,” which you may know from the
brand name Valium, worked faster and longer than Miltown. Like Miltown, Valium affected culture. These pills became commonplace. You might have heard them called “mother’s
little helpers.” This nickname tells the story of the U.S.
at the time: most women worked at home, many of them suffering from the “problem with no name”—which we now might call Depression and Anxiety, owed in part to a lack
of options, respect, and rights. The new anti-anxiety pills worked to calm
worried brains—but they didn’t change a patriarchal culture. More openly debated at the time was the first
drug to treat mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, lithium. Starting around 1950, some psychiatrists called
for the naturally occurring element lithium to be used prophylactically as a mood stabilizer—that
is, to prevent a mood disorder. Lithium can cause serious side effects, however,
that make patients feel sluggish and out of it—“stable” but not exactly great, depending
on the dose. So the FDA only approved lithium for prophylactic
use in 1974. Drugs for major depressive disorder were also
controversial. In the 1960s, psychiatrist Joseph Schildkraut
put forward the chemical imbalance theory: basically, since antidepressants seem to work
by elevating levels of norepinephrine and serotonin, depression may be caused by a lack
of these critical neurotransmitters. This theory is widely talked about, but it’s
never been proven. Where are you, scientific method? Still, in 1987, the antidepressant fluoxetine—marketed
as Prozac—was sold as the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, based on the
imbalance theory. But pills were not the only ways of making
money from research on bodies. Another was the ability of medical researchers
to turn certain samples of human tissues into immortalized cell lines using tissue engineering. These cells don’t die out, but keep growing
indefinitely. Experimenting on living humans can be dangerous
and complicated. Trying out new drugs on a dish full of human
cells is cheaper and safer. But the cells came from a specific human,
and the new practice of immortalizing cell lines raised thorny questions about ownership. Help us out, ThoughtBubble. The very first human cell line to be immortalized
has been experimented upon on every continent and in outer space, helping thousands of researchers
develop new therapies. And it came from someone who didn’t give
consent and received no reward. Henrietta Lacks was an African-American housewife
in Baltimore who showed up at Johns Hopkins in 1951 complaining of abdominal pain. She was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. As he’d done with hundreds of incurable
cancer patients before, cell biologist George Gey took a biopsy, or tissue sample,
and tried to keep it alive, giving it the kind of nutrients it would get from the body,
but in a machine he’d designed called a roller drum. Lacks’ tumor cells could keep growing, unlimited
by the size of a dish. His idea was that, since cancer cells divide
aggressively and don’t rely on a plan from the body, they might be easier to keep alive
forever outside of one. Gey had tried and failed many, many times
before, so he was surprised when Lacks’ cells seemed to happily divide and divide,
never dying out. His persistence paid off! Gey freely shared the cells with other researchers,
and the cell line—HeLa—became the most important cell line in biomedical
research and remains so today. By 1954, this strain of cells was being used
by Jonas Salk to develop a polio vaccine! And HeLa would later be used for cloning human
cells and developing in vitro fertilization. Buuut… Henrietta Lacks—the human, with a family
and friends and dreams and bills—was long dead. She had never consented to having her cells
used for research. Her family was not aware of HeLa’s existence
until 1975. And they didn’t receive any compensation. Thanks, ThoughtBubble. As historian Hannah Landecker explains, HeLa
is a particularly loaded technology. To Gey and many scientists, it was clearly
a gift to science. To the Lacks family, the cell line clearly
represented the historical and continuing oppression of black women: black body parts
used by white people to make knowledge and, in the process, make money… Eerily reminiscent of slavery. At least HeLa doesn’t cost anything. This is not the case with all cell lines. In 1976, John Moore underwent treatment for
hairy cell leukemia at the UCLA Medical Center under the supervision of Doctor David Golde. He developed tissue from Moore’s cancer
into a cell line, Mo, that was later commercialized for millions of dollars. In 1990, the California Supreme Court ruled
that Moore had no right to any share of the profits realized from the commercialization
of anything developed from his “discarded” tissue. The lucrative cell line is owned by the regents
of the University of California—not the man from whose body the cells were taken. New technologies also raised new questions
in agriculture. You’ve probably heard of GMOs, or genetically
modified organisms. A GMO has had its genome, or DNA blueprint,
edited to include genes from another organism. Genetically transforming microbes took off
starting in 1973. The first genetic engineering techniques didn’t
work with complex organisms, but new techniques soon followed. In 1977, a biologist named Mary-Dell Chilton used an altered form of a common bacterium
called Agrobacterium tumafaciens to insert genetic material from a foreign species into
a plant. Agrobacterium works by forming a plant tumor,
called a gall, on the roots of a plant. Chilton’s breakthrough was followed by similar
work in Belgium. But she became—and remains—the “Queen
of Agrobacterium.” In the 1980s, chemical companies used her
work to develop GMO crops. In 1983, John Sanford and Edward Wolf invented
a mechanical means of genetically transforming plants at Cornell—the gene gun. This was also used to make GMOs. The first approved GMO was a pest-resistant
tobacco in China, in 1992. The same year, the U.S. approved the first
GMO to eat—a bruising-resistant tomato, the “Flavr-Savr,” marketed under the farmy-sounding
name “MacGregor’s.” These tomatoes contained a gene that turned
off the enzyme that breaks down pectin. This kept them from going soft on long truck-rides
from Mexico. In the 1990s, a company developed the super-fast-growing
AquaAdvantage salmon—the first GM animal for food. Canada approved it, and the FDA ruled the
salmon safe in 2015. But the next year, they postponed AquaAdvantage’s
release “until final labeling guidelines for informing consumers of such content are
published.” And they’ve postponed every year since. But the big money GMOs, which at first faced
little pushback from consumers, are grains In 1995, Bt corn was registered with the EPA. Farmers have used Bt, a pesticide derived
from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis , since 1920. On its own, the pesticide is considered organic! Around the same time, Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” soybeans, resistant to
their top pesticide, glyphosate. The soybeans were followed by corn in 1998. Each chemical company set up a vertical system,
selling GM seeds and related herbicides. And making tons of money as farmers buy both. GMO grains are common throughout the United
States, China, Argentina, and India, but largely resisted in Europe. The market for GMOs today is estimated at
over three hundred billion dollars, all from only four crops—soy, canola, cotton, and
corn—modified with only two properties—herbicide tolerance, insecticidal action, or both. None of these makes foods more nutritious
or better tasting. These properties are all about yields for
grains that are fed to animals or used as ingredients. So much of the recent controversy about GMOs
isn’t really about the technology of changing plant genomes, but the why behind these changes. Other advances in genetics technologies were more readily accepted: assisted reproductive
technology. In 1978, in England, Louise Brown became the
first baby born using in vitro fertilization or IVF. “In vitro” means “ in glass”—babies
conceived in dishes instead of wombs. Basically, IVF and similar techniques involve
isolating gametes, or sex cells, and moving them around in labs. Egg donation became possible soon after, in
the 1980s. Today, IVF, the donation of gametes, and other
forms of assisted reproductive technology are widely accepted. But these technologies are often expensive,
so not everyone has equal access to them. Meanwhile, in agriculture, other cell biologists
pushed new reproductive technologies. Dolly the sheep was born in 1996, the first
animal created using the technique somatic cell nuclear transfer or SCNT—widely described
as “cloning.” Dolly was created by embryologist Ian Wilmut
and others at the Roslin Institute of the University of Edinburgh—and named after
Dolly Parton! SCNT is surprisingly simple: somatic cells
are body cells, like from skin. The nucleus of a somatic cell contains a DNA
blueprint. But it’s not normally enough to make a new
organism—that requires gametes. But with SCNT, the egg’s nucleus is sucked
out by a micropipette, and the nucleus from a somatic cell is inserted. This causes the egg to start dividing—to
make a baby—and means the genetic material is from that somatic cell. The baby is a “clone” of the somatic donor! With new reproductive technologies, it’s
technically possible to clone a baby human, but that’s banned in most countries. Also, cloning wouldn’t result in an exact
copy of the single “parent,” just a child with a similar genome. Experience would turn certain genes on and
off: this is called epigenetics. And environmental stimuli matter more than
genes in many cases: breathing in polluted air, for example, is bad no matter how good
the genes related to your lungs are. Next time—we’ll introduce the life sciences
equivalent of the atomic bomb: it’s time for the Human Genome Project, forensic genetics,
and a new “personalized” era in biotechnology. Crash Course History of Science is filmed
in the Dr. Cheryl C. Kinney studio in Missoula, Montana and it’s made with the help of all
this nice people and our animation team is Thought Cafe. Crash Course is a Complexly production. If you wanna keep imagining the world complexly
with us, you can check out some of our other channels like Scishow, Eons, and Sexplanations. And, if you’d like to keep Crash Course
free for everybody, forever, you can support the series at Patreon; a crowdfunding platform
that allows you to support the content you love. Thank you to all of our patrons for making
Crash Course possible with their continued support.


  • anas hajjaj

    March 26, 2019

    It would've been more helpful if you made crash course into a learning platform giving certificates rather than only uploading lots of videos

  • Oliver Bridge

    March 26, 2019

    Will you guys do an episode or few on the 'social' sciences? I think it would be great if you did.

  • Adaginy

    March 26, 2019

    "people didn't have these problems in my day! We were tough and we dealt with things!"
    "5% of all americans were on miltown by the late 1950s"

  • ЛевМЭХ

    March 26, 2019

    I mean, no one was consented for the use of their discarded tissues at the time, and plenty of similar stories could (and have, though with less fanfare) been told about people of all races and genders. This wasn't about race or gender. It was just about consent-taking practices. What harms, in any case, were actually incurred?

  • Randy Green

    March 27, 2019

    Thanks to you and your channel I have been able to teach students for years in exciting and dynamic ways. Thank you for what you do.

  • Lucas

    March 27, 2019

    Benzedrine is being confused here with benzodiazepines ****

  • ömer faruk

    March 27, 2019

    Hello Crash Course, I guess a series on military history, or at least videos on what does military do and what does not can be quite useful.

  • Greg ṭupšarru

    March 27, 2019

    This series is great. Is there a list of resources for what is discussed, or a work cited for the videos? I am wanting to incorporate some of these into my environmental science courses.

  • Shahriar Iftekhar

    March 27, 2019

    please make a course on international law, ethics,human rights

  • hidden leaf

    March 28, 2019

    Very clear voice

  • Ashutosh Maharana

    March 28, 2019

    I had my biology final today. The fourth question was, 'What is the name of the scientist who cloned a sheep named Dolly?'
    Why couldnt you release this video earlier?!

  • -

    March 28, 2019

    You'd think a solution to prevent others from profiting from your body is to simply not provide consent, but that doesn't work. If you need a surgery or some other medical procedure, you'll have to sign a waiver that includes a part about granting them ownership of anything they take from you during it. If you don't sign, you don't get the procedure. It's like how companies have EULAs that grant them sweeping rights and if you don't accept it, you don't get to use it at all. 😒

  • Hannah C

    March 29, 2019

    Every continent? Even Antartica?

  • Lilou ou

    April 1, 2019

    I'm positively surprised by his part on GMOs. Usually Americans fall into uneducated catchy slogans like "GMOs are safe and undeniably awesome", whereas here, on the contrary, he sticks with science= he stays more skeptical/neutral with a science-fact-driven explanation rather than falling into the American money or emotion-driven-pro-GMO-propaganda

  • Russell Thornton

    April 1, 2019

    Why don't you produce a video on why the FDA has refused to weigh in on the medical benefits of marijuana?

  • Adwitiya Dhiman

    April 1, 2019

    what of biopiracy

  • The Left can't Meme

    April 2, 2019

    Bahahaha you went woke super Saiyan White night on that HELA speech, didntchya? Wouldn't it have been easier to be intellectual honest and say no one gave consent until fairly recently for their samples to be used in biomedical R&D? And no one TO THIS DAY gets monetary compensation for any breakthroughs and/or drugs created with the help of their samples?

    No? Just easier to say the evil huwhite man… Woooo damn, and the double down; just like slavery too!! White knight level 100 reached.

  • Lai Parco

    April 2, 2019

    I knew that Rolling Stones song "Mother's Little Helper" was talking about drugs. I didn't know it was talking about a specific drug. I guess everybody at the time were in on the joke.

  • Tom Patterson

    April 4, 2019

    Lax's family should just be getting monetary compensation for all discoveries and money made off of said discoveries.

  • jean rene tournecuillert

    April 6, 2019

    why puttig politics in to science " it did not stop patriarchy" ?

  • Josh Stead

    April 16, 2019

    It's controversial but I believe that taking those cells and distributing them was exactly moral. Among permission and giving them the chance to say no is wrong. The patient loses exactly NOTHING. It does not affect them in any way at all, but potentially saves millions of lives.

  • Tor Barstad

    April 26, 2019

    If cells that came from my body, taken from me more or less as easily as picking up a discarded tonail, could save lots of lives, then not making use of it would be immoral. Presumably it was tried on white and black patients alike, and comparing it to slavery is pretty ridiculous.

  • Kris honk

    July 5, 2019

    The captions are off time on this one. Thank you for this series!

  • Arjhon Marquez

    November 5, 2019

    The funding for science can come from two sources, private funds (from companies and foundations) or public funds, which can come from a number of different government agencies. … This is largely because a portion of the funds from the government go directly to the school.

  • Nia Jeon

    November 6, 2019

    I've never tried any of the drugs mentioned in the video but seeing its effectiveness to people who tried it, then maybe it's a good thing. It's amazing how these small cells from our bodies can be sold to millions of dollars. Well it's understandable knowing that these kind of cells help a lot of problems regarding about human health. I just hope that the money that they'll make would be used for good purposes like further research and not for evil deeds. I'm just saddened at the fact that the person who contributed a lot to this project didn't receive any reward and wasn't informed that her tissue samples were being experimented. I can't imagine what the family felt during that time. Truly inhumane. I just hope that this won't happen again to anyone.


    November 8, 2019

    Science started from wondering why to something profitable. I would always admire the thought that all of the things we know now came from scientific method. This made us understand and make things more simple. But what I love the most in Science is that we seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge. This chapter however, makes me rethink the way I view the process of Science. There is no denying that we are already doing it for the sake of wealth. I missed the time when people do it because they are curious, because they want to know. Presocratics, Plato and Aristotle, Islamicate Science, etc. those are what I consider the noble time of Science. Although most of the Scientist during these time were chased down by religious states because of their knowledge at least they were not being chased down by money just for them to make knowledge. In vitro fertilization, cloning, and other new method of creating life; I don’t think I would like them. These are the scientific experiments that I consider creepy. No matter how sophisticated and “advanced” the processes are in doing this, I would never want to do it. God forbids!

  • Jeamila Inidal

    November 9, 2019

    When we say drugs, we always think it as negative, but watching this video made me realize that not all are weird or not that so good drugs. There are some drugs that is beneficial to us, just like what the video said it helps us in many ways. But ofcourse i think if it will going to abuse this & make it in bad way then there is no doubt that it will worsen us. All of us must use it in a helpful or advantageous to our health not just for our insights pleasure like what's our main problem today. & everything must be in moderation.

  • Ainie Baldecasa

    November 9, 2019

    Brain science took off, and several researchers found, starting with animal models, that treating brains with different chemicals could affect mood and behaviour. Thorazine is an antipsychotic. It reduced the need for electroconvulsive treatment. It still used today. Meprobamate or ‘minor tranquilizers’- nowadays called anti-anxiety medications. The cell with other researchers, and the cell line hela became the most important cell line in biomedical research and remains so today.

  • Janal Mamogcarao Ador

    November 9, 2019

    It is a very big help that science came into existence. Medicines, treatments, surgeries and many different scientific operations wouldn't be possible without science. The study of science require a very huge effort in order to find something that is beneficial for the human race. One of those are medicines. These medicines were used in order to treat sick people and diseases. But in the other hand, science can sometimes be used as business. The production of drugs can be good for medicinal purposes but if it being abused, it would be dangerous. I strongly believe on this mutual usage of a certain thing like drug. It has an advantages and at the same time, disadvantages if it were be abused. We are thankful that we have science that could help our living but we need to use it on the proper way for our own betterment

  • Nashima Guinar Esmail

    November 9, 2019

    Our bodies are made of:

    65% Oxygen
    18% Carbon
    10% Hydrogen
    3% Nitrogen
    1.5% Calcium
    1% Phosphorous
    0.35% Potassium
    0.25% Sulfur
    0.15% Sodium
    0.15% Chlorine
    0.05% Magnesium
    0.0004% Iron
    0.00004% Iodine

    In support, According to a recent article in Wired magazine, a body could be worth up to $45 million — Calculated by selling the bone marrow, DNA, lungs, kidneys, heart … as components. Just imagine how sacred life is but sciencing somehow introduced business as a devilish act of selling one's organs. On a personal note, my religion take our Life as the most sacred gift from God so as our bodies. And therefore, no amount of scientific use is legible to validate its reasons. I hope everybody respect me for that.

  • Ilham Jamil

    November 9, 2019

    Science helped us gain lots of knowledge and discover things. It helped us really huge in our way of living, especially it is very useful as medicine is part of it which is a very helpful knowledge that the some people should know. But, it became business, for me becoming it as profitable way to earn is not really a bad thing but there are some just are overboard with it just like the dosage of drugs, too much would be bad.

  • Mohammad Hadji Mahmod

    November 9, 2019

    Fortunately science is very beneficialto us in alot of ways. Just like for example, without medical science, most of us would be dead by our forties. There are countless reasons why medical science helps the human race and helps to prevent illness and prolong our lifespan. People are living much healthier and happier lives because of breakthroughs in medicine and science in the pastfew decades. But science may harm us if ever people used it in an evil and abusive manner for the sake of greed.

  • Sittie Sohayla Hadji Taher

    November 13, 2019

    This is so cool. 😎 Crash Course helps us a lot in understanding the Science more. Thank you Crash Course! 😇
    Meprobamate–marketed as Miltown by Wallace Laboratories and Equanil by Wyeth, among others–is a carbamate derivative used as an anxiolytic drug.

  • Sittie Alyzah Espinola

    November 14, 2019

    Science do open our mind that science is not only a subject but also a medicine. Drugs is known for its bad causes but usually in medicine, drug is the main ingredients that can cure some illness but overdosing it may cause brain damage.

  • Mark Ray Parcutilo

    November 22, 2019

    The cloning idea was fantastic how scientist successfully clone a sheep named dolly. Injecting the DNA of the original animal to another cell which then fertilizes and will be born perfectly clone to the other animal. Scientists wonder if this method will be applicable to human but because it is prohibited, it is not tested yet. If I am asked to clone myself through that method, I will agree in order to contribute to science in the field of cloning. Hihihi

  • Mr Marxmin

    December 2, 2019

    What do you mean by "tranquilizers"? Benzodiazepines?


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