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This edition: DNA: Blueprint of Life

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Episode Details

By mixing and matching animals or plants with desired characteristics, farmers and gardeners manipulate their heritable traits. They choose the features they want and attempt to eliminate the others. Today, with the advent of genetic engineering, we can tinker at a much deeper level with startling precision. The question arises: How far do we go? The program initially looks at the question in a historical perspective. Dr. Inder Verma provides insights and descriptions relating to the discovery of the DNA molecule. This segment explores the research that led to the model of DNA structure presented by James Watson and Francis Crick. Later, Dr. Leroy Hood discusses his efforts to decipher the DNA code and its implications. Also, Dr. John Wasmuth describes his search for the Huntington’s Disease gene, a task akin to finding a needle in 200 haystacks. Highlighting the final segment is the story of a boy with a rare disease (severe combined immunodeficiency disease) caused by a missing gene for adenosine diaminase. The story unfolds to explain how doctors and a research team replaced the boy’s missing gene, one of the first times that genes have been inserted permanently into the blood-producing cells of a human. Recent tests indicate the gene replacement was successful because the boy’s blood cells are producing a necessary enzyme.