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How To Build A Human

is a BBC documentary series about the eighth day of creation, about the manipulation of our own DNA to grow new organs, to rebuild broken lives, about new world of prediction, the super-humans with unhuman abilities, the hope of extended lives and the fact that knowing how to build a human may ultimately be less important than what we do with that knowledge.

Episodes


1. How To Build A Human Creation movie: For billions of years this was the way life reproduced. Clones ruled the world. Mindless and immortal. Then, under water, sex evolved. Sperm met egg. The mingling of genes sparked an explosion of life. Millions of new species. And this potent mix of sex and chance ultimately led to us. It's taken millions of years for blind chance to turn us from primitive humans into modern man. But now we are taking charge. Biologists are learning how to clone, and they are mixing genes to create new species. But above all, they are becoming masters of the molecules they study. A clone might look the same, but could never really be the same because of the influence of the environment. We know from looking at identical twins that they're not actually identical. The outside world will have an influence on how a person develops, quite apart from their genes. And it's not just what happens after you're born; it's also what happens to you in the womb that will have an enormous impact. In other words, we are a combination of our nature and our nurture.

2. How To Build A Human Predictor movie: And at the heart of the cell is the greatest prize of all, the 46 chromosomes which between them contain all the genes needed to build a human being. The genes are a book of information that describe how each human being will develop, and we can now read that book, and for the very first time we're going to be able to see inside of every human being. As we decipher the information contained within these genes, we are not only learning how to build a human, but also how to predict what characteristics that human might have. We have a new genetic technique that allows us to look at personality, the same way that we would look at eye color. We can actually look at the molecules that are involved in. That's really exciting.

3. How To Build A Human The Secret Of Sex movie: We're made up of cells. And inside every cell is exactly the same mix of genes - our DNA. Until recently, reproduction was regarded as pretty straightforward. To build a new human you first take the genes that make up a woman, then the genes that make up a man, and then enthusiastically mix them up. Reproductive physiologist Doctor Roy Levin has struggled with the technical limitations of studying sex for decades. And there was a long period of time when you only guessed what was happening from the external appearances of men and women in coitus. So that you couldn't really tell what was happening inside, because you just can't see. Our understanding of sex hasn't moved on much since Leonardo Da Vinci first started dissecting corpses and studying those over 500 years ago.

4. How To Build A Human Forever Young movie: Scientists have recently shown that it's possible to double the lifespan of an animal. Here was a perfectly normal animal which just simply lived twice as long as its genetic counterparts. And experts in ageing now believe that human life span can also be doubled, to well over a 150 years. I think 150 years is really a conservative estimate. I wouldn't be surprised if it's not substantially longer.
 
Watch BBC How To Build A Human Creation movie - In the beginning was the cell and the cells multiplied by cloning BBC How To Build A Human Creation movie - In the beginning was the cell and the cells multiplied by cloning
Now, as we enter the 21st Century, it is perfectly clear that we are going to understand what it means to be human at the smallest level. We're going to be able to pick apart human cells and not only are we going to be able to understand it, we're going to be able to manipulate human beings, we're going to be able to change our genes, change our cells, change human beings in every kind of way that you can imagine. Paul Nurse, winner of a Nobel Prize for his work on cell division, is well aware that the growing ability to manipulate DNA worries other people. We can now do things that people couldn't imagine before. And it really gets to the central core about what is a human being. Some of the most exciting and controversial work in modern biology is going on inside this building. In here, they're about to attempt something that has never been done before, to clone a human embryo. The secret ingredient that gives an embryo its power to grow and develop is a mysterious cell called an embryonic stem cell. They first appear about a week after fertilization. At this point the embryo is just a small clump of cells. Among them are a few stem cells. Here, magnified 15,000 times, are human stem cells. They are unique. They alone can transform themselves into any kind of human cell. A nerve cell, for example. As it divides it will build a brain and spinal tissue. A heart cell. Eventually, multiplying enough times to construct a whole heart.
 
Watch BBC How To Build A Human Predictor movie - This remarkable journey to a world of prediction starts in the human cell BBC How To Build A Human Predictor movie - This remarkable journey to a world of prediction starts in the human cell
Everyday, we are learning more about what can and cannot be predicted from the mysterious substance that is our DNA. It's amazing to think that this translucent slime that we have here is DNA. Nobel Prize winner, Paul Nurse, has spent much of his career studying DNA. Everything about us is determined by the structure of this DNA, whether we have blue eyes or brown hair, a big nose, whether we'll suffer from certain diseases, like cystic fibrosis. Maybe even one day in the future, perhaps it can be used to predict our behavior, all by knowing the structure of this molecule. But how can these tiny drops of DNA are used to make predictions? Here, at the Army Training Headquarters at Bassingbourn, an experiment is about to begin. These new recruits are taking part in one of the first scientific studies of gene prediction, an attempt to see if a single gene, called the ACE gene, can predict how these recruits will perform. The man behind this ground-breaking study is Hugh Montgomery. He believes that by studying these recruits he can unlock one of the key genes that determine long life. We've chosen to use the army for these sorts of studies for very good reasons. If we take these recruits here, we're looking at people we can choose to be the same age, the same sex, they're eating the same food, and they?re drinking the same water, being shouted at by the same people, wearing the same sorts of clothing and undergoing absolutely identical training. Montgomery is testing the DNA of each of the 80 recruits taking part in the study. By examining their genes he thinks he can predict which of the recruits has the endurance to deal with the grueling demands of army training. And finding out which of the recruits can run further may also allow him to predict which will live longer.
 
Watch BBC How To Build A Human The Secret Of Sex movie - Understanding sex is the key to understanding how to build a human BBC How To Build A Human The Secret Of Sex movie - Understanding sex is the key to understanding how to build a human
The machine Doctor Levin's come to see is this FMRl scanner. It's basically a camera which uses magnetic fields to penetrate human flesh. Today, in the interests of science, Michael DeGroot and his girlfriend Liz Leahy are going to attempt to have sex in its cramped confines. Well, this is the machine as you can see inside, it's got, like, two doughnuts, those are the very magnets, and in between is the space that you'll lie down in and have coitus. So it's been specially adapted, that means just a single board has been put down and you'll lie in between the two magnets, and hopefully that will capture the images of what's going on during sexual intercourse. I have a small background in human sexuality, in the psychology aspect, because I'm a psychology under-graduate. So with my background I just kind of got an interest, and hearing about these images that would be one of the first times that these would ever be recorded, l just thought it would be really fun to be a part of this work. The scanner takes a picture every three seconds, and produces images of the body from top to bottom. You can sort of see the penis here. That's outside of the body from about here. And this is the root of the penis inside the body. And this is inside the female's body. That's her pubic symphaysis, the bone, and here would be the pubic hair just around here. That's, of course, her bottom. And this is the vagina that the penis is in. And at the top here is the gland. And the thing that's obvious in this cross-section is the unusual shape of the penis during intercourse.
 
Watch BBC How To Build A Human Forever Young movie - The search for the elixir of youth starts inside the cell BBC How To Build A Human Forever Young movie - The search for the elixir of youth starts inside the cell
One man who claims he does possess that extra something is Doctor Ron Livesy. He runs a private anti-ageing clinic in New York. He believes his treatment programme will slow down, even reverse the ageing process. He's in his mid-50s and he's on it himself. I've noticed many benefits over the past five years. I've regained my lean body mass and lost approximately 60 lbs of abdominal fat. My immune system is clearly working much better, because I no longer get frequent colds and no longer require sick days from work. My bad cholesterol is now normal; my good cholesterol has gone from being low to a quite healthy range. But do we really want to live longer? One fear is that radically increasing lifespan will lead to over population.
 




Quotes


Protected inside the nucleus are chromosomes. Chromosomes are nothing more than tightly bound packages of DNA. When they're unraveled, the characteristic double-strands of DNA are revealed. Each strand of DNA carried hundreds of genes.

Three new humans have been successfully conceived, survived the perils of an early birth and are in perfect condition.

Today, we know more about how to build a human than ever before. And one thing is certain, in the years to come; we will be able to predict even more about our lives; because this world of prediction has already begun.

Most people's brains are very sensitive to dopamine. Just walking to the edge of a cliff would be enough to get a buzz. But people with the long form of the thrill seeking gene tend to have brains which are more resistant to dopamine.

The main difference between the two groups was a gene hidden away on chromosome 17, called D4DR. This was a really incredible finding, because it was the first time that it was possible to directly link the molecular nature of the gene with the person's fundamental personality.

The real difference between men and women is that women normally have two X sex chromosomes, while men have an X and a Y.

It takes 30,000 genes to build a human, but just one gene -the SRY to build a man. The SRY is a switch which clicks when the fetus is around six weeks old. Until then, the baby could become either male or female. When the SRY is switched on, it fires up the development of the male sex organs.

Could it be that growth hormone is the wonder drug, the key to building a long living human? I think it's unfortunate that one of the tags that growth hormone was given was the elixir of youth.

The link between oxygen and ageing helps explain a curious observation made over 100 years ago. The observation that most animals have a fixed number of hearts beats in their lifetime, around a billion. A shrew lives life in the fast lane. Its heart skips along at 500 beats a minute, using up all its heartbeats in less than four years. By contrast, an elephant's heart pumps a leisurely 30 times a minute. It can live up to 80 years.

Fruit and vegetables are the best source of vitamins, like A, C and E. These are so-called antioxidants. They help soak up free radicals.

Yet history suggests otherwise. In most wealthy countries, birth rates are actually falling, even though life expectancy has nearly doubled in the last 100 years. But it's not just prolonging life that interests Melov; it's the idea that in the future we could stay young longer. Everyone is just starting to understand how the world works, and all of a sudden your body starts failing you. And so how much better would it be if that weren't to happen, and you could use the accumulated wisdom throughout your lifetime to good effect, instead of having your faculties fail. It's very unlikely there will be a single solution to the problem of ageing. Better drug treatments, replacing failing organs, even manipulating genes may all play a part. These technologies are in their infancy, but technology has a way of exceeding expectations. Imagine what's going to come next, and the only thing that I'm willing to say is that it's going to surprise us that the things we think are impossible today are not going to be impossible in the future, which is why I know that by the end of the 21st Century we're going to be able to completely manipulate completely manipulate what it means to be a human being. The new science of genetics promises to change our world beyond all recognition. Whether it's for better or for worse will not be decided by science, but by society.


Reviews


The BBC have been given exclusive access to follow the whole procedure. First of all, Jose needs human eggs. He waits outside while they're collected from an anonymous donor at a nearby clinic. Human eggs are so hard to obtain that, initially, Jose's wife volunteered to donate hers. This is a difficult procedure. My wife wanted to do it, and she partially started to be stimulated and then had to be stopped. She's not the right age. So I am very, very thankful for this woman that is going to help us get the research done. A security guard is with Jose to ensure the eggs don't go astray. Human eggs are precious, because a woman's ovaries normally produce just one egg every month. But under the influence of hormone injections a woman's body can produce up to twenty eggs at a time.

A journey that saw the 23 chromosomes carried in our father's sperm combine with the 23 chromosomes inside our mother's egg, to form the distinct set of instructions that we call our genome. Our DNA is inherited from our parents, and yet we are different from them. Each one of us can look at our parents and see them reflected in ourselves. But how is this information passed on? In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, scientists began to realize that there were patterns of inheritance which could make sense of the confusing hereditary that they'd recognized up to that point. And then they could start applying these principles to human beings, particularly the freak shows at the beginning of the 20th Century. In the early 1900s, scientists realized the best way to discover how ordinary characteristics are passed on was by first studying the extraordinary. Imagine a world where every facet of your child's medical history, its strengths, and its vulnerabilities could be uncovered by tapping in to a computer. We will not be the same again, because there's so much information which was hidden away, which is now open for everybody to see.

The discovery that men are created from a female blueprint was certainly a big surprise and contradicts previously held notions about the relative importance of men and women. Societies have decided the relative importance of men and women for thousands of years. By and large, the men are regarded as more important than the women. So when biology started to catch up, at first it looked to reinforce that; the idea was that the sperm contained the little person and the woman was just the sort of soil in which the man would grow, the baby would grow. Gradually, as we've learnt more about it, we've realized that the mum is rather more important, and the woman's rather more important. And the big shock came when it was realized that if you don't have a sex chromosome, or one of the sex chromosomes you don't come out as a boy, you come out as a girl. So what that tells us is that the Bible was fundamentally the wrong way round. Woman was not born of man's rib; it's the other way round. Adam, if anything, came from Eve's rib. So the male is an adapted form of the female. One very obvious remnant of our female past can be found on every male chest. Nipples. The reason men have nipples is because they developed in the fetus before testosterone kicked in.
 

Pictures

Note: Click on images to enlarge them.
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human Creation movie image 1 - The cells multiplied by cloning
The cells multiplied by cloning
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human Predictor movie image 2 - Our DNA is inherited from our parents and we are different from them
Our DNA is inherited from our parents and we are different from them
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human The Secret Of Sex movie image 2 - Understanding sex is the key to understanding how to build a human
Understanding sex is the key to understanding how to build a human
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human Forever Young movie image 1 - The human body is made up from 100 million different cells
The human body is made up from 100 million different cells
 
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human Creation movie image 3 - Embryo split into three to form identical triplets
Embryo split into three to form identical triplets
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human Predictor movie image 4 - Adrian has spent his whole life going where most of us would fear to follow
Adrian has spent his whole life going where most of us would fear to follow
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human The Secret Of Sex movie image 4 - This is the first time that such images have been seen on British television
This is the first time that such images have been seen on British television
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human Forever Young movie image 3 - I injected myself with human growth hormone
I injected myself with human growth hormone
 
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human Creation movie image 4 - They also cloned a rare ox called a Gower
They also cloned a rare ox called a Gower
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human Predictor movie image 5 - Some tests say more about us than we would ever want to know
Some tests say more about us than we would ever want to know
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human The Secret Of Sex movie image 5 - Woman was not born of man's rib, it's the other way round
Woman was not born of man's rib, it's the other way round
Watch BBC BBC How To Build A Human Forever Young movie image 5 - The free radicals that escape overwhelm our defenses
The free radicals that escape overwhelm our defenses