In the early days of the space race, agency researchers in Russia and at NASA really weren't sure all what would happen to an astronaut in space. They didn't know if a human mind could handle actually seeing Earth or what would happen to the human body when exposed to long periods of weightlessness. Would their blood forget which way to pump? Would their eyeballs shift or their inner ears wig out? They sent up mice and monkeys and dogs, to see what happened, and in 1961, the Russians strapped a man to a rocket headed for orbit. Yuri Gagarin was the first person in space. The ultimate human guinea pig, he survived, becoming an international hero.
The acerbically witty and severely facially disfigured broadcaster Adam Pearson presents a personal film about genetics. He and his twin brother Neil are genetically identical and both share the same genetic disease, Neurofibromatosis 1 (Nf1) - yet they are completely different. Adam's face is covered with growths, whereas Neil has none. Neil has short term memory loss, whereas Adam is razor sharp. How can the same genetic disease affect identical twins so differently? Adam is on the cusp of a successful film and television career, but the disease has left tumours on his face that are growing out of control and he could lose his sight. For years, everyone thought Adam's brother Neil had escaped symptoms, but today his life is governed by epilepsy and a mysterious memory loss that suddenly came on during his teens. Determined to save their future, Adam tries to find out why the disease affects the twins so differently.
Not all the microbes that live on us or inside us are benign, and it is only thanks to the superhuman nature of our bodies that we survive constant attack. However, humans are becoming increasingly vulnerable to disease. This programme examines the dramatic increase in allergic diseases such as asthma, eczema and hayfever.
Dr Kevin Fong examines what can be done to reduce the number of mistakes being made by surgeons in the operating theatre. Speaking to professionals in high-pressure careers - including airline pilots, firemen and Formula One pit workers - he explores the coping mechanisms they each employ when faced with emergency situations, and looks at how these tactics could be transferred to the world of surgery.
In this episode, Gabriel uncovers the cases of an engineer who fixed his own heart, a toddler whose bones were repaired before he was even born and a girl whose immune system attacked her own brain. We meet a man who can taste words and find out how his condition is helping develop new ways to enable blind people to navigate and even recognise colours. And we encounter a man who was immobilised by MS but can now cycle and scuba-dive thanks to a pioneering new treatment that has reversed his disease.