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Have scientists uncovered the secret to immortality? Can meditation stop people wanting to self-harm? And are light-skinned people really the mutants of dark-skinned people? These questions, and many more, will be answered in Secrets of the Human Body, an innovative cross-platform event being staged by SBS over the coming months. Secrets of the Human Body will be based around five thought-provoking and compelling Australian-made science documentaries, screening on consecutive Sunday nights on SBSONE from December 9. Complementing these documentaries will be a series of innovative events involving the filmmakers, scientists and the public, developed in association with the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus), a newly-established science organisation.
|S01E01||Immortal||00/00/0000||Could scientists really have discovered the secret to endless youth? Is there really such a thing as an immortalising enzyme, a chemical catalyst that can keep cells young forever? A team of scientists, lead by the remarkable Australian-born Professor Elizabeth Blackburn, believe the answer to be yes. In 2009, Elizabeth and her team’s discovery of an enzyme deep in the DNA of a single-celled pond creature, the so-called 'immortalising enzyme', was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Now, this remarkable enzyme is being harnessed. The molecular clock it controls - the countdown to death in each cell - can be tested, measured and, in some cases, it can even be stopped. Amazingly, middle-aged human cells have been replenished and rejuvenated by triggering this enzyme, becoming, in effect, young again. Many believe that the cure for ageing, has now arrived. But there is a dark side to this incredible find. The immortalising enzyme is a complex biological riddle, with a paradox at its core. This same enzyme that fuels life, also fuels cancer. Cancer it seems, is the true immortal. It has the ability to replicate endlessly, ignoring instructions to die. And cancer cells have hyperactive levels of this same enzyme. So the key to endless life, is also the key to cancer's deadly success. The challenge is now on to find a balance between the power to extend life, and the ability to destroy it. Featuring Nobel Prize winners and experts in ageing, personal stories and provocative old films, Immortal reveals the inner workings of this biological paradox and its remarkable impact on ageing, disease and cancer. We also discover the role of stress and lifestyle in the ageing process and what steps we can all take, right now, to protect our precious genetic material. For today, around the globe, brilliant minds are busy harnessing this cellular fountain of youth to help us all live longer and healthier lives.|
|S01E02||The Silent Epidemic||00/00/0000||In 2008 Professor Graham Martin conducted The Australian National Epidemiological Study of Self-Injury. Hidden behind the phone, a sample of 12,006 people spoke frankly about a practice that had often taken over their lives. Peaking in teenagers and young adults, the alarming results of the study showed that 1.1 per cent of the Australian population in the four weeks before the phone conversation and 8 per cent of the population in their lifetime, had engaged in deliberate self-injury. The Silent Epidemic delves into the scientific and socially misunderstood world of self-injury, shedding a light on the groundbreaking scientific research that could help the 200,000 Australians who are currently engaging in self-injury behaviour. With their international counterparts, the Australian scientific community has been galvanised in their quest for understanding by statistics that indicate that there is an unrecognised epidemic of self-injury behaviour in young people in the Western world. The Silent Epidemic follows Australia’s leading mental health experts on their pioneering quest for answers and through the extraordinary personal stories of three young Australians with first-hand experience of self-injury, reveals the neurological processes that could help explain this often misunderstood behaviour. This is also a story of hope, as scientists and advocates from around the world offer illuminating scientific insight into a behaviour that can also signal a person’s craving to survive. Visually striking and enlightening The Silent Epidemic challenges the conventional documentary science narrative by interweaving ground-breaking scientific experiments and research with the personal journeys of young Australians desperate to overcome their self-injury behaviour.|
|S01E03||Kuru: The Science and the Sorcery||00/00/0000||This is the true story of one of the most incredible and challenging medical detective stories of the 20th Century; a history of human tragedy, adventure and discovery. It is the story of the Fore, a Papuan community immersed in cannibalistic mortuary practices and sorcery in one of the most remote regions on the planet, and the tragic disease that threatened to wipe out their entire population. In 1961, a young Australian medical researcher, Michael Alpers, puts up his hand to work on a new and strange disease in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. There, he teams up with an American outer, Dr Carleton Gajdusek, who has been in the local Fore region since 1957. For Michael it is the beginning of a lifelong obsession. Together, they are amidst a major epidemic. It is killing over 200 people a year with devastating effects. It mainly targets women and children. The local people, the Fore, call the disease kuru, their word for shivering. They believe it is caused by sorcery. Michael and Carleton are baffled by the disease. There are no scientific disciplines to guide them as they attempt to unravel its mysteries. By pure chance, a link is made to a strange transmissible animal disease in sheep, Scrapie. The two kuru researchers embark on a 10-year experiment to see if the fatal degenerative brain disease in humans could be transmissible like Scrapie. The decision is made to perform an autopsy on a kuru victim and inoculate the kuru material into a chimpanzee. Kigea, ayoung girl in the village is identified as being in the early stages of kuru. Kigea’s family, gives Michael permission to perform an autopsy upon her death. A brain sample taken from Kigea after her death is flown to the USA and injected into a chimpanzee called Daisy. While Michael follows the progress of the transmission experiment, he starts to collate all the recorded data on kuru and begins to suspect cannibalism as the cause of the spreadof the disease. Within two years, he diagnoses Da|
|S01E04||Heartbreak Science||00/00/0000||Is the heart more than just a muscle for pumping blood? Incredible stories from around the world appear to suggest that the heart is a far more complex and mysterious an organ than was ever thought. Is it really possible to die from a broken heart and do the experiences of transplant patients prove that the heart is capable of storing memories? Heartbreak is a fascinating popular science documentary that investigates some of the world’s most intriguing heart mysteries and follows the scientists on the frontline of heart science. With heart disease now the number one killer in the world today we’re about to look at the body’s most important muscle in a revolutionary new way. From incredible new connections between the heart and the mind to an intriguing system of neurons dubbed “the little heart in the brain”, this is the secret life of the human heart. Turning the tables on accepted medical opinion, Heartbreak explores whether people can die of a broken heart, whether our minds can cause heart disease and whether the heart could share some of the brain’s crucial functions. It seems the poets were right after all - our minds and bodies are in fact closely linked and the phrase "broken-hearted" contains a literal truth as well as a metaphorical one.|
|S01E05||Skin Deep||00/00/0000||We live in a world of black and white. For hundreds of years, human skin colour has been used as a marker of race. Now, science is uncovering the intricate relationship between skin colour and environment to reveal its crucial role in survival and reproduction. Skin colour tells a fascinating biological tale. When our ancient ancestors in equatorial Africa lost their body hair and ventured out into the open savannah, their skin had to become dark to resist strong UV radiation. Perfectly adapted to the environment, the black skin of Africans is one of nature’s greatest achievements for the survival of the human species. This may not sound new, but in 2000, Penn State University anthropologist Nina Jablonski proposed a startling new explanation as to why human skin has so many colours. Her study suggested that pigmentation did not evolve to prevent skin cancer, but primarily to help the human body maintain the right balance of two crucial vitamins essential for reproduction and body development. One is vitamin D, produced by skin reacting to sunlight. On the other hand, folic acid - a B vitamin that our bodies need to produce DNA and develop the neural system - can be destroyed by the sun’s UV rays. As a result, skin colour developed as a perfect compromise: allowing enough sunlight to stimulate the production of vitamin D, but screening the body from harmful rays that destroy folic acid. Skin colour is therefore more than just a suntan or a feature of ethnic origin - it is essential for survival and reproduction. Such findings pave the way for a long overdue reassessment of how we view skin colour. Today’s globalised world provides us with a further opportunity to look at skin colour from a new perspective. Skin colour has evolved in response to local environments over thousands – even millions - of years. But now, more than ever, people are moving around the globe to live in distant lands - and their skin pigmentation is not always suited to their new environmen|