DNA: The Secret of Life

DNADeoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms (with the exception of RNA viruses).

The main role of DNA molecules is the long-term storage of information. DNA is often compared to a set of blueprints, like a recipe or a code, since it contains the instructions needed to construct other components of cells, such as proteins and RNA molecules.

The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in regulating the use of this genetic information.

1. The Secret of Life - The discovery of the double helix structure of DNA is to science what the Mona Lisa is to painting. It's been called the single biggest discovery of all time. But it wasn't just stumbled upon - it was a race. Specifically, it was a race between two teams of young scientists working in Britain, as well as the esteemed chemist Linus Pauling, based in California.

2. Playing God - In 1973, two scientists undertook an experiment that rocked the world. By transferring the DNA from one species to another, Herb Boyer and Stan Cohen became the first Genetic Engineers. Their experiment triggered a wave of controversy about the dangers of genetic manipulation, but it also generated a multi billion dollar industry.

3. Human Race - In the 1990s, the race to work out the structure of DNA fifty years ago was eclipsed by another race: to catalogue all the genes in the human genome. The rivalry became so bitter that Presidents and Prime Ministers had to intervene in an epic endeavor that would take over a decade to complete and cost millions of dollars. The story begins in 1990, when the Human Genome Project was launched to decipher the complete instruction manual of the human being.

4. Curing Cancer - Bud Romaine was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 1994. He was given three years to live. In 1996, a newspaper article caught his eye. The article described the work of a local doctor, Brian Druker, who was testing a new kind of cancer drug. In 1997, months away from death, Bud Romine became the first patient ever to take Gleevec.

5. Pandora's Box - We asked Jim Watson to give us a tour of the future. He believes DNA science should be used to change the human race. His views are both extraordinary and extremely controversial. Watson argues for a new kind of eugenics -- where parents are allowed to choose the DNA of their children - to make them healthier, more intelligent, even better looking.

Watch the full documentary now (playlist - 4 hours, 25 minutes)

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Comments and User Reviews

  • wd42o

    FRANCIS CRICK, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced the double-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.aged 88, later told a fellow scientist that he often used small doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD, not the Eagle's warm beer, that helped him to unravel the structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel Prize.

  • jack1952

    @ wd42o

    The only thing I discovered on LSD was that it was a bad idea to go swimming while under the influence.

  • wd42o

    Yeah that might not have been a smart move...lol When i dose the only thing i ever want to do is learn and watch these documentaries I cant get enough...?'They have a philosophy,' 'They believe industrial society will collapse when the oil runs out and that the answer is to change people's mindsets using acid. They believe LSD can help people to see that a return to a natural society based on self-sufficiency is the only way to save themselves. And there is only about 11 people in America that can even make and produce LSD and they are geniuses.. And there BACK!!!!! right in time if ya ask me ;)

  • Ron

    LOL! Nerver heard the LSD story. That's a twist. (sorry, bad pun)

    What amazes me the most about what we have learned from DNA is that we don't really seem to be made of matter, at least in the traditional sense. Atoms in our cells come and go, and those cells live, die and are replaced continually throughout our life time. We grow old not because we wear out but because of what may be more like DNA read errors.

    So what are we really? Just information?

    Hmmm, reminds me of what Tegmark said at the end of the doc,"What is Reality".

  • Weirdedout

    Totally, what a crock! It's ridiculous that the documentary film makers gloss over the fact that lsd was an integral part of the discovery of dna.

  • TylerDurden

    Someones been reading Jeremy Narby ehhhhh wd420?

  • Atrophy

    I whole heartedly agree with this form of DNA 'eugenics'. We have already made our natural evolution nearly obsolete with our medical technology. We enable people who would not normally survive in the course of natural selection to live relatively normal lives. We thus perpetuate towards a species riddled with genetic frailties and disease, something destined for extinction.
    If we can target disorders at the very source, strengthen the human species against them and reduce the burden on our resources caring for those that cannot care for themselves, then why not?

  • Atrophy

    @ron
    As multicellular creatures I agree, there is no reason why we should not be able to be biologically immortal. Those read errors interfere with the production of proteins which support the growth and repair of our bodies, so I think of it like, If you replace broken parts with substandard parts, it breaks down and wears out faster until it cannot be repaired anymore, at which point we die.
    I heard or read somewhere there is a point in human life when we actually do stop physically aging on a cellular level, however accumulated damage eventually leads to failure. I think its a matter of preventative maintenance and repair with undamaged parts, aka gene therapy.

  • David

    One of the leading theories as to why we age is because a bunch of the energy has to be diverted from cell maintenance to sexual reproduction needs. Also, the shortening of the telomere also adds to why we age and eventually breakdown. It is not as simple as just transcription errors or read errors. Many of the errors that occur are actually not significant and don't cause a change. Mainly because much of the DNA sequence is non-coding so an error does not matter, and also because many of the errors are actually fixed. It is far more complex than simply read errors and gene therapy.

  • Atrophy

    @David
    True, I thought I heard or read somewhere that it acts differently in different species tho, actually getting longer in a few... I could be wrong. I did however scan a couple documents online about telomeres and its said they relate strongly to oxidative stress and laying down high tissue mass compared to size. The most telomere loss is during youth, and stresses such as nutrition and environmental factors can affect the length overall.
    Gene therapy could still be the answer if we could figure out how to restore a healthy cells telomeres and then provide nutrition and antioxidants to prevent and repair the majority of future damage. Stem cells is another option for restoring damaged tissue.
    I think cancer cells actually copy their telomeres fully through one of 2 identified mutations, so its within our cells capability to do it on their own.

  • Hexamon

    I think there is one very compelling reason for mortality. If one defines life as a perpetual recreation of structured information (possible as means to counterpart the law of entropy, if one really wants to get philosophical) then it would be a fair statement to say life is immortal (at least really, really long lived compared to the timescales we, humans, are used to operate on). Individual immortality is quite difference from the impartiality of an individual. If an individual was indeed immortal, this would probably constitute the end of life as we know it, for the fundamental principal of evolution of life (in a sense which goes beyond its organic definition) is the process of collecting, replicating and selecting information. Be it through quantum "weirdness", genetical selection or cultural evolution.

    I never tried LSD (and I'm too old for it now), did learn my lesson on not mixing cannabis and sports though a vivid lesson. Dislocated shoulder and a few broken ribs, I guess ass great as it is to ski high, one is subject to making absurd decisions :)

  • 5T3V3H3W5

    I found this one extremely boring. Just was'nt for me I guess.

  • argonautproject

    Genetics misserably failed. Time to wave the white flag. Quantum Physics and Wave genetics is the answer for curing all the deseases and prolonging the life via the restoration of damaged genes . Biocomputers are programmed perfectly and we only need to fix the mistakes (growing and that of indefinite program- not program mistakes- programs are ideal-but many factors whilst using this ideal program. Good bye, genetics-read Academic P P Gariaev- you lost the war against the Quantum Physics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scytalevsbijaz Petrescu Cezar Mihai

    @wd42o

    i do LSD like 2-3 times a year ... last time i spend a nice sunday under a tree in nature with friends ... at the precise moment 16:20 as we all agree to smoke at that precise moment, time itself suddenly collapse in my view as the consequence of our predermined actions and i can clearly hear without any doubt, low and high elevated frequency from tree, trying to harmonicaly recover throu birds and wind, that state of beign and silence from 16:19 ... ok .. that's what i was thinking at that time ... but the real story here is that we are in fact only sounds, multidimensional sound much like cymatics ... how do i know that? ... simple: if u put two sound generators in the same room, there will be some chaos i think ... but if you move around room, one can find some spots where you can really hear one sound or another, much better that previous location ... add some obstacle, some refractive and many other sources and you get life as we know it ... i mean really, we are just music trying to remember previous state of being in that hallways of multidimensional sounds, moving throu, covered by blind spots, always in search of what we belive is "the exit way" or better say, forever bound to reach the limit only to fall back as the reflection, until we find that hole that get us to the next level.

    i really dig that stuff and i'm so sorry for all the people that take it and then say something "trying to fly under the influence was a really bad ideea. Next time i'll remember to fill out the gas tank of the plain i fly with".

    DNA offer us a tool to harmonize us all, very advance one so we have no excuses, only ignorance, in construction of our own well being.

  • His Forever

    The same commentator that did the Twilight Zone does this documentary. I'm nearly 100% sure of that! Or his cousin. LOL

    My favorite quote from Maurice Wilkins: "It's perfectly true, but I don't think that science ought to be kept in bags, no more than cats."

  • SONNYCORBI

    wonderful when are you going to start the curing argonautproject?

  • 0zyxcba1

    @ SONNYCORBI

    Thumbs up!

    There's this real good doc, 'The Ghost in our Genes', #187 in the Science section here at TDF.

  • Cemre Kutluay

    These pieces are a good opportunity to see the zeitgeist of gene business...

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZRZPI2NVH4V3GXDPLOSX52HQ2Q Jack

    thanks

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_56E57WOBOPP3HQMMCIV4E5M5IE Hollis

    a fascinating story constantly interrupted by commercials -- very annoying.

  • Horst Manure

    Emotions are determined by DNA as well.

  • Lou Plisken

    If you don't like commercials on PBS films, then vote for liberals that will fund PBS so they don't have to beg for money.