Segments in this Video

Human DNA (01:53)


By the 1980s, scientists have identified approximately 100 genes. To identify diseases, they need to understand the entire sequence.

Gene Sequencing (05:05)

In 1986, biologists convene to discuss the possibility of reading the entire human genome. James Watson asks Congress for funding and the project begins in 1990; improving technology is vital to success. (Credits)

Human Genome Project (04:59)

Improved processing speed helps scientists read longer sequences faster. Some patent sequences and Watson resigns. Francis Collins takes over and project leaders make discoveries public. Craig Venter develops an alternative approach and creates a private company.

Genome Race: Public vs. Private (05:08)

The competition generates awareness, but public sniping threatens to undermine the work; Ari Patrinos brokers a solution. By 2000, most of the human genome has been mapped.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (10:18)

Biologist Audrey Winkelsas hopes a new genetic drug will stop her disease progression. In 2013, Arielle Yoder is diagnosed with the most severe form of SMA; she dies in 2014. A year later, the Yoders have a son who also tests positive for SMA.

Gene Activation and Suppression (07:21)

Researchers bet on how many genes are in the human genome; we have 20,000. The research of Francois Jacob and Jacques Monod helps scientists understand how genes can generate complex diversity.

Human Genome Components (13:20)

Genes are 1% of the genetic code. Some DNA segments are switches, some are discarded, and some are errors. Winkelsas discusses living with SMA. Scientists discover unusual genetic features. Winkelsas runs SMN2 experiments; an experimental compound looks promising.

Genes and Disease (05:43)

Scientists compare normal and abnormal genomes to locate mutations that lead to a specific disease. Researches look for common genetic abnormalities to identify common illnesses, including schizophrenia. Experts find shared mutations between some diseases.

Genes and Cancer (05:18)

All cancers begin with gene mutation in a single cell. Scientists learn that no two cancers have the same combination of mutations, but some share mutation types. Lettie Lassiter enrolls in a clinical trial to treat gallbladder cancer; drugs designed for breast cancer shrink her tumors.

Precision Medicine (04:02)

Genetics can predict and alter some diseases. Genetic sequencing may become common practice for diagnosis and prevention. A Maryland team launches a precision project; eugenics is a concern.

Human Population Genetics (10:07)

Genomes contain a record of humans as a species. All humans share over 99% of DNA; migration allows for superficial differences. The Yoder's agree to an experimental SMA drug treatment for their newborn son; he is physically active and doing well.

Gene Therapy (08:11)

Experts consider whether replacing a mutated gene could cure disease. Scientists attempt to use viruses as gene delivery mechanisms. James Wilson runs clinical trials for an OTC treatment; Jesse Gelsinger dies.

Gene Therapy: Clinical Trial (09:28)

Researchers develop safer viruses for gene therapy trials. Brunel Etienne undergoes experimental treatment for sickle cell disease. The question of who should cover the cost of developing treatments for over 5,000 genetic diseases arises.

CRISPR (07:17)

Many bacteria store strands of viral DNA in their genetic material to recognize future attacks. Scientists discover that bacteria have the ability to edit DNA; Feng Zhang experiments with human DNA.

CRISPR: Ethics (06:32)

A woman wants to birth the first CRISPR baby; Jennifer Doudna calls for a global pause on clinical applications for human embryos. Rebecca Cokley reflects on CRISPR and achondroplasia. In 2018, scientists informally agree not to use CRISPR in germline research.

Lulu and Nana Controversy (04:51)

In 2018, He Jiankui announces he used CRISPR to edit the genomes of twin embryos, surprising fellow scientists. Experts must think carefully about using the technology.

Treatment Prognosis (03:21)

Winkelsas has been on nusinersen for six months and is maintaining her disease. Etienne shows signs that gene therapy for his sickle cell disease is working.

Credits: The Gene: An Intimate History - Part Two (00:59)

Credits: The Gene: An Intimate History - Part Two

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Ken Burns Presents: The Gene: An Intimate History - Part 2

Part of the Series : Ken Burns Presents: The Gene: An Intimate History
3-Year Streaming Price: $339.90



The second part of the four-hour series The Gene: An Intimate History begins with the story of the signature scientific achievement of our time: the mapping of the human genome. As scientists learn to read the genetic code, they grapple with the dangers inherent in increasingly sophisticated and easily available methods of intervening in the very essence of what makes us human, our DNA.

Length: 115 minutes

Item#: FPT206187

Copyright date: ©2020

Closed Captioned

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