Episode available within Canada only.

Technologies like CRISPR are making it possible to quickly and cheaply change the DNA of all living things, including humans. Today, genes can be edited almost as easily as words on a computer screen. This new ability to alter our DNA holds the promise of curing disease, saving threatened species, solving the problem of world hunger and maybe even obtaining human perfection. But will the promise be fulfilled and at what cost?

The ability to gain control of our DNA is ground-breaking and revolutionary but there are varying opinions among scientists as to how the technology should be used responsibly. The Nature of Things documentary The Genetic Revolution follows the science as it progresses at a breakneck speed.

The film begins in Dallas Texas, where we meet Ben Dupree, a young man suffering from the deadly hereditary disease Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. There is hope for Ben thanks to ground-breaking research by Dr. Eric Olson. Through the use of new techniques, Dr. Olson has isolated the gene that causes Ben's crippling illness. With the use of CRISPR, he has been able to successfully edit the Duchenne causing gene in laboratory trials. This new treatment is extremely promising, and the race is on as Dr. Olson awaits human trials for his innovative treatment, and to help Ben.

In rural China, geneticist Dr. Liangxue Lai has isolated the genes for hyper muscle growth and created a new breed of "super beagles". These muscular beagles tower over their non-genetically altered siblings and signal a changing world for the future of animal husbandry. What does this mean for ourselves? Could this technology be used by human athletes for a competitive edge?

In New York City, Dr. John Zhang has revolutionized fertility science, creating the first three-parent baby. But some worry that these new advancements in fertility science will lead to designer babies, or worse yet, the homogenization of humanity, erasing our diverse physical and neurological traits that make us human. 

Dr. Pablo Ross, at the University of California, is creating organs using human DNA in pigs. The dream is to one day create animals that are able to carry human organs ready for transplant. Elsewhere in California, a ‘bio-hacker’ named Josiah Zayner wants to ‘democratize’ gene-editing technology by selling CRISPR kits online. One controversial bio-hacker named Tristan Roberts is even attempting to treat his own HIV with the technology. The bio-hackers believe that this new technology is for everyone, but critics are quick to point out the medical dangers and ethical questions involved.

MORE:
The future is here: three ways gene editing could change the world
Human gene editing can change the world — but Canada's laws are restricting progress

Meanwhile, in Martha’s Vineyard, Dr. Kevin Esvelt is planning to fight Lyme disease using breakthrough gene editing techniques. Dr. Esvelt is hoping to attack the problem by editing the genetic code of the mice that carry Lyme disease, forever changing the species genetic makeup. But many fear the ethical and environmental impact of forever changing the genetic code of an entire species.

As genetic technologies like CRISPR propel us into the unknown future, many questions wait to be answered. As Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health says, "this has been an intense ethical debate about are we crossing a line... that certainly is not something that would happen in nature? Is it safe? That would be a good thing to know."

The Genetic Revolution shows that human science is at a tipping point. Human beings are at the very cusp of technologies and decisions that can change the world as we know it. 

 

Credits (Click to expand)

THE GENETIC REVOLUTION

Directed by
ROBIN BICKNELL (CAN)

Written by
JULIA NUNES (CAN)

Executive Producers
ELLIOTT HALPERN (CAN)
ELIZABETH TROJIAN (CAN)

Produced by
ELIZABETH TROJIAN (CAN)

Editor
MICHELE FRANCIS (CAN)

Directors of Photography
SARAH THOMAS MOFFAT (CAN)
ANDREW KENNETH MARTIN (CAN)

Original Music Composed by
JOHN JK KANAKIS (CAN)

Producer
JULIA NUNES (CAN)

Line Producer
ANJA SOBKOWSKA (CAN)

Production Manager
DEAN POLLOCK (CAN)

Researchers
LEE VENTURA (CAN)
WENDY KIRSCHNER (CAN)

Assistant Production Coordinator
JORDAN JACKSON (CAN)

Development Coordinator
SAM HALPERN (CAN)

Archive & Clearances
LAURA LUCAS (CAN)

Additional Camera
JERRY ANDREWS (CAN)
HARRISON FREEDMAN (CAN)
DEREK ROGERS (CAN)
MATT MAREK (CAN)

Camera Assistant
EVAN SECCOMBE (CAN)

Sound Recordists
ALISA ERLIKH (CAN)
HARRISON FREEDMAN (CAN)
CHRIS MILLER (CAN/US)
PETER SAWADE (CAN)

Production Designer
ALESA FAZIO (CAN)

Gaffer
SHELDON STEINBACH (CAN)

Key Grip
NICK GOULET (CAN)

Genny Operator
QUILLAN DOCHERTY (CAN)

Local Fixers
ALISON CLARK, CIB (CHINA/UK)
DAMIEN EVANS, CIB (USA/CHINA)

Production Assistants
BEN ANDREWS (CAN)
MONIKA GERESC (CAN)
CHYANN MARACLE (CAN)
STEPHEN TRUDELL (CAN)

Post Production Supervisor
HARRISON FREEDMAN (CAN)

Motion Graphics
JUNIOR LOPEZ (CAN)

Colourist
WALT BILJAN (CAN)

Online Editor
ADAM GAGNON (CAN)

Re-Recording Mixer
ROGER GUERIN (CAN)

Sound Editors
JON LAWLESS (CAN)
JOE SCANDELLA (CAN)

Business Affairs Manager
ROBIN GLEADALL (CAN)

Controller
SAM SIMPSON (CAN)

Music Library Provided by
JINGLE PUNKS

Stock Footage & Stills
DEBBIE DUPREE
DISCOVERY ACCESS
DR. ERIC OLSON
DR. JOHN ZHANG/NEW HOPE FERTILITY CLINIC
DR. PABLO ROSS
FOOTAGE USED UNDER LICENSE FROM SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
FORD FISCHER AND NEWS2SHARE INC.
GETTY IMAGES
JOSIAH ZAYNER/ODIN

Stock Footage & Stills
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE
REPRINTED FROM CELL, VOLUME 168, FIGURE 6 WITH PERMISSION FROM ELSEVIER
SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY LTD.
STOCK MEDIA PROVIDED BY POND5

Special Thanks
BETSY GLICK
BRUCE LAHN
CUMMINGS SCHOOL OF VETERINARY MEDICINE, TUFTS UNIVERSITY
DEBBIE DUPREE
EMMA TADDEO
GEOFFREY HAWES & NEW HOPE FERTILITY CLINIC
JANE GOODALL INSTITUTE
JANET ROSSANT
JOANNA BUCHTHAL
KEITH HARING ARTWORK © KEITH HARING FOUNDATION

LUCIA CINO
MCMASTER UNIVERSITY, FACULTY OF HEALTH SCIENCE
NATALIE COTANCH
OPEN BIOLAB, CHARLOTTESVILLE VIRGINIA
ROBIN WAITE
ST. JOSEPH’S HEALTHCARE, HAMILTON
TIFFANY COOK & CUREDUCHENNE
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER

 

For the CBC

General Manager, Programming
SALLY CATTO

Senior Director, Documentary
SANDRA KLEINFELD

Executive in Charge of Production
SUE DANDO

Executive Director, Unscripted Content
JENNIFER DETTMAN

Director of Production, Unscripted Content
ALEXANDRA LANE

Wildlife Film Consultant
CAROLINE UNDERWOOD

A Production of yap films in association with The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and ZDF Enterprises.

with the assistance of The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit and CMF 


With the cooperation of

Canadian Federation of Musicians

Produced with the participation of

ROGERS DOC FUND

The Nature of Things
With David Suzuki

Produced by
CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION

cbc.ca/natureofthings

© 2018 Yap DNA Productions Inc.
All rights reserved.

“produced in association with” animation
THE CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION
2018

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