• Ian Thorpe in DNA Nation. (SBS)Source: SBS
Dive into the genetic soup with these fascinating documentaries.
By
Shane Cubis

12 May 2016 - 11:58 AM  UPDATED 12 May 2016 - 12:13 PM

Even for those of us who don’t entirely understand the science behind it, DNA is fascinating for the way it reveals secrets embedded deep within us. DNA Nation, an Australian scientific first, sees people of different ethnicities donate their genetic material to be analysed – creating a genetic map that stretches back 200,000 years.

Before it screens, bone up on these groundbreaking explorations of human identity, all of which can be found on our DNA Planet page.

 

1. Predict My Future: The Science of Us

Who’s in it?

1037 New Zealanders from Dunedin have been studied since their births in 1972. Although the participants are now spread around the world, almost all the original group still take part.

What’s it about?

This series debates one of the most controversial questions – nature vs nurture. The study reveals what really makes us who we are, what effect childhood has on adults and why some of us go off the rails while others flourish.

Why it’s groundbreaking

Taking the Up series to the next level, the length and breadth of this study is astonishing. The data collected covers most fields of medical and social development including addictions, obesity, sexual health, neuroscience, psychiatry, genetics and criminology and the effects of nature and nurture on health and behaviour.

 

2. Dead Famous DNA

Who’s in it?

Presenter Mark Evans with posthumous cameos via archival footage from the likes of Adolf Hitler, Elvis Presley, Charles Darwin, John F Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Napoleon, Marlon Brando and King George III.

What’s it about?

Tracking down the remains of some of history’s best-known figures, this doco uses the latest advances in DNA testing to try to solve some of the mysteries that have persisted around them.

Why it’s groundbreaking

It aims to increase awareness of what the fast-evolving science of DNA research is capable of, analysing genomes in search of answers.

3. Meet the Izzards

Who’s in it?

Eddie Izzard, his family, distant relatives and a host of specialists along the way.

What’s it about?

Comedian and actor Eddie Izzard embarks on an epic and personal journey using his own DNA to trace the migration of his ancestors out of Africa and into Europe.

Why it’s groundbreaking

The doco uses cutting-edge DNA technology from saliva swabs to uncover ancestors from 10,000 generations – ranging from the San bushmen of the Kalahari to the survivors of Pompeii and even Neanderthals.

4. What Makes Us Human

Who’s in it?

Anatomist and doctor Alice Roberts.

What’s it about?

Professor Roberts is making a new human being – she’s five months pregnant. But her field of expertise gives her a different take on the business of creating a human.

Why it’s groundbreaking

Using DNA analysis and visits with our furry cousins, the doco explores how humans, who share 99 per cent of DNA with chimpanzees, live such different lives to other apes.

5. Miracle Cure? A Decade of the Human Genome

Who’s in it?

Cystic fibrosis sufferer Sophie, recovering alcoholic Tom and cancer patient Emma.

What’s it about?

After the $4 billion Human Genome Project was completed, it promised cures for diseases and a new world of personalised medicine. This doco follows up via personal stories to see if it is living up to the hype.

Why it’s groundbreaking

It not only explores one of the most significant scientific achievements of the modern era, but looks at exactly how sequencing of the human genome has had an impact on medicine.

6. The Nine Months That Made You

Who’s in it?

Hosted by Hugo Speer and starring all of us.

What’s it about?

This program explores the secrets of what makes a long, healthy and happy life by examining what happens before we enter the world, as well as the after-affects this in-utero time has on our health, personality and even the lives of our children.

Why it’s groundbreaking

The provocative claim that our nine months in the womb has a more profound impact than genetics or even our lifestyle after we’re born.

7. Little White Lie

Who’s in it?

Filmmaker Lacey Schwartz.

What’s it about?

Lacey grew up thinking she was white – that her dark skin and hair were from a Sicilian ancestor. Now, she uncovers a lie that haunted her parents’ marriage and begins a journey to understand her past and embrace her African-American heritage.

Why it’s groundbreaking

A public examination of a private pain eight years in the making makes for a compelling story.

 

DNA Nation premieres on Sunday 22 May at 8:30pm (AEST) on SBS. After they air, episodes will be available on SBS On Demand.