The human body is constantly regenerating itself, but as we get older, the ability for self-repair diminishes. The human foetus, however, has far greater powers of regeneration. The programme explores how modern medicine is looking at ways to tap into the superhuman power of the embryo.
It was 1952, and polio had reached outbreak levels in America. There was no known cause, no cure, and no help in sight for parents desperate to protect their children. Our nation's hope was placed in a 33-year-old scientist, working from a basement lab in Pittsburgh. His name was Jonas Salk, and in just a few years, he would bring infantile paralysis to its knees and change the course of medical history. Travel back to a world gripped in fear and see how Dr. Salk, with his dedicated staff, a young charity, and a faithful nation, came together to conquer polio.
2010 • Health
The first ever vaccine was created when Edward Jenner, an English physician and scientist, successfully injected small amounts of a cowpox virus into a young boy to protect him from the related (and deadly) smallpox virus. But how does this seemingly counterintuitive process work? Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut details the science behind vaccines.
Many clinical trials target the nation's most acute health issues. With deaths from liver disease soaring by 40 per cent in a decade, more and more patients are waiting for vital liver transplants. There is a shortage of organ donors and many donated organs are rejected as only those in excellent condition are considered suitable for a transplant procedure. Surgeons Richard Laing and Thamara Perera are part of a team at QEHB trialling a revolutionary way to tackle this crisis, by maximising the number of donor organs that can be safely re-used. The film follows the trial every step of the way, as Richard receives a donor liver that would usually be rejected and tries to prove it is viable for transplant by rejuvenating and testing it on a perfusion machine. This machine sustains the liver by mimicking the supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients an organ receives inside a live, healthy human body. Once the donor liver has proved itself fit for transplant, the surgical team start to remove grandmother Connie O'Driscoll's severely diseased liver. Once the donor liver has been disconnected from the perfusion machine, they have just 20 minutes to place it in Connie's body and plumb it into the complex and delicate network of hepatic blood vessels.
Horizon investigates a new era of Alzheimer's research, which is bringing hope to millions of sufferers across the world. New scanning and gene technology is allowing scientists to identify the disease at its earliest stages, often 15 years before symptoms appear and the brain cells are destroyed. A series of new drugs trials in Colombia, the USA and Europe are showing startling success in reducing beta amyloid, the protein which is a hallmark of the disease. It is also becoming clear that changes in lifestyle can prevent the development of the disease. A new system inside the brain has been discovered which clears amyloid when we are in deep sleep, but allows it to accumulate if we don't sleep well. The programme reveals that for sufferers in the early stages of the disease, brain connections, or synapses, can be strengthened and even replaced by absorbing enough of the right nutrients. A UK-wide trail helps sufferers in the early stages to concentrate on improving everyday tasks, and in the process not only make their lives easier, but helps to reactivate the planning and organisational parts of the brain. In an ageing world, where the biggest risk of developing Alzheimer's is old age, the scientific breakthroughs in Alzheimer's disease are bringing hope where once there was despair.