'Ken Burn Presents The Gene: An Intimate History'
(2-Disc DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)
Overview: 'The Gene: An Intimate History' is a four-hour documentary from Ken Burns and Barak Goodman, adapted from the award-winning book of the same name by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee.
The series tells the story of the rapid evolution of genetic science from Gregor Mendel's groundbreaking experiment in the 19th century to CRISPR, and the hope that newfound powers to alter DNA with pinpoint precision will transform the treatment of some of the world's most complex and challenging diseases.
The series also tackles the daunting ethical challenges that these technologies pose for humankind.
DVD Verdict: Simply put, 'The Gene: An Intimate Story' is a tale of science, social history and personal stories weaved together to bring us a historical biography of the human genome; whilst also exploring the stunning breakthroughs in understanding the impact genes play on heredity, disease and behavior.
Here the Columbia oncologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author reunites with the renowned filmmaker to illuminate the past, present and future of genomic science, due to the ability to modify genes and prevent disease has exploded in the last decade.
It is now possible to use gene therapy to cure inherited disorders, to correct genetic defects and to limit the severity of a disease. But this new era in genomic medicine offers both promise and peril.
“These revolutionary discoveries highlight the awesome responsibility that we have to make wise decisions, not just for the people alive today, but for generations to come,” said Siddhartha Mukherjee, an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, staff cancer physician and author of The Gene: An Intimate History.
'Ken Burn Presents The Gene: An Intimate History' airs at a critical moment for the science community, as geneticists around the world grapple with the ethical questions these technologies raise.
In November 2018, a Chinese researcher stunned and horrified the scientific community with the announcement that he had created the first genetically edited babies, twin girls born in China.
Interestingly enough, this documentary had been cut and finished just before the first cases of coronavirus were reported in China, so it was too late to include what would soon become the COVID-19 pandemic, “a global crisis inextricably tied to our genes,” Mukherjee has since said.
“A piece of genetic material—29,000-odd nucleotides of RNA—coated with protein has upended the world,” Mukherjee continued. “Virtually every technology we're using to track and treat COVID-19, even an oral or nasal swab to detect whether you are infected, relies on genetic techniques.”
Again, based on the book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D. 'Ken Burn Presents The Gene: An Intimate History' tells the story of the rapid evolution of genetic science from Gregor Mendel's groundbreaking experiment in the 19th century to CRISPR, and the hope that newfound powers to alter DNA with pinpoint precision will transform the treatment of some of the world's most complex and challenging diseases.
The series also tackles the daunting ethical challenges that these technologies pose for humankind, and thus I implore you, especially in these darker times of ours now, to watch this riveting new Ken Burns PBS series; out now on DVD. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.