Ken Burns’ “The Gene”

Ken Burns’ “The Gene”
April 7, 2020 paperlesslion

The latest series from the Ken Burns documentary team explores startling advances in human genetic research, their potential for new treatments and for abuse. View Ken Burns’ “The Gene” – The Promise and Peril tonight on Detroit Public TV (56.1) and Part 2 next Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Also enjoy a PBS Books panel of leading experts as they discuss the series and the current COVID-19 crisis.

Details from PBS:  

As our world and community is gripped by a fearsome pandemic, we are all increasingly aware of the power of genes and the importance of genetic research.

This evening Detroit Public TV and PBS will premiere the latest series by America’s master documentarian, Ken Burns’ “The Gene: An Intimate History” – a two-part, four-hour film based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book of the same name.

While the series was completed before the novel coronavirus outbreak, it does deal with critical issues facing the scientific community, as geneticists around the world wrestle with the ethical implications of new technologies that offer both promise and peril.

“The Gene” weaves together science, history and personal stories for a historical biography of the human genome, while also exploring breakthroughs for diagnosis and treatment of genetic diseases — and the complex ethical questions they raise.

Groundbreaking treatments will improve the lives of millions of people — potentially treating diseases like sickle cell — but there are worries that scientists will take gene-editing technology too far, using it to modify germline DNA in order to enhance certain traits deemed “preferable.”

“The Gene” captures the compelling, emotional stories of contemporary patients and their families who find themselves in a desperate race against time to find cures for their genetic diseases. It follows the inspiring, heart-wrenching journeys of people such as Audrey Winkelsas, a young scientist born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy researching a treatment for her own condition, and Luke Rosen and Sally Jackson, parents on a tireless quest to raise awareness for their daughter’s rare degenerative disease.

We’re certain that you will find the entire series a captivating, enlightening and evocative experience, as are all of Ken Burns’ productions.

To further our understanding of “The Gene” and apply it to the COVID-19 crisis, PBS Books – a Detroit Public TV national initiative – organized last week an online preview of the series and a virtual panel discussion of national experts on genetics and epidemiology, including Dr. Howard Markel of the University of Michigan, a leading authority on the history of epidemics.

In collaboration with libraries throughout Michigan, the event included an opportunity for viewers to ask questions of the esteemed panelists. You can watch this fascinating discussion here.