Tackling tuberculosis (Countryfile)

cowtbBroadcaster: BBC1
Year: 2016
Genre: Magazine

URLs: (full episode) https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/0D9D7D7F
Clip 1 (6:43): https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/23517
Clip2 (6:16): https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/clip/23518

The BBC’s rural affairs programme Countryfile (first broadcast on 9th October 2016) looked at ongoing issues with TB infection cattle populations. The topic was covered in two sections. The first focuses on the current tests for TB infection. The second looks more closely at the science being used to develop new tests and better vaccines against TB. Continue reading


Immunotherapy for Type I Diabetes (News)

peakman1Broadcaster: BBC1
Year: 2016
Genre: News
URL: http://bobnational.net/record/393710

In this three minute clip, Fergus Walsh reports on a trial being conducted at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (London). The research, led by Prof Mark Peakman, is using a combination of protein fragments (MultiPepT1De) to try and trigger a “protective” immune response, rather than the inappropriate antibody production against islet cells that underlies Type 1 diabetes.

This link includes a video by Prof Peakman introducing the biochemistry of Type I diabetes and the basis of their research (5 mins). See also this article by Peakman on the principles behind the new approach.

The same news item is currently also available on the BBC news website.

TB: Return of the Plague

TB documentary screenshot

Swaziland has declared the current TB epidemic a national emergency

Broadcaster: BBC 4

Year: 2014

Genre: Documentary

URL: http://bobnational.net/record/351052

Reviewed by Emma Sterling

“It’s very difficult to cure XDR because we’re just giving what we have on the table. The reality of XDR is that it’s almost incurable.”

(WARNING: Distressing content): BBC 4’s long-format (90 minute) documentary TB: Return of the Plague, reports on the fight against tuberculosis (TB) in Swaziland, the country with the highest rate of infection in the world. Continue reading

Ablation, Ibrutinib & PSA testing (Curing Cancer)

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In a clinical setting; MRI Imaging is routinely used to identify tumour locations in preparation for treatments like microwave ablation (MWA) or high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU)

Broadcaster: Channel 4

Year: 2014

Genre: Documentary

URL: http://bobnational.net/record/350267

Review by Ella Yabsley

The Curing Cancer documentary outlines in simple terms how cancer occurs. I do not recommend watching the entire hour-long episode from the Cutting Edge series as it only briefly covers certain areas and contains anecdotal sections which are irrelevant for educational purposes. This 14 minute clip (spliced together from shorter segments in the programme) could serve as a brief introduction to cancer cell biology.

If you already have a more advanced knowledge of cancer biology then I recommend skipping to the four specific cases below (rather than watching the longer clip). Each case describes and demonstrates a different cancer treatment in action; Ibrutinib, high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU)  and microwave ablation (MWA). Case 2 describes the diagnosis techniques prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing and biopsy extraction.

Watching the cases below could be valuable if you are taking a cancer biology module and want to demonstrate knowledge of emerging therapies. Additionally, please take a look at this post which highlights a recent BBC News item on immunotherapy techniques used for treating melanoma (skin cancer).

Continue reading

Fix My Genes (Great Ormond Street)

The programme gives a fascinating insight into the different dilemmas facing children with severe immunological problems

The programme gives a fascinating insight into the different dilemmas facing children with severe immunological problems

Broadcaster: BBC 2

Year: 2015

Genre: Reality TV, Documentary, Fly on the wall

URL: http://bobnational.net/record/307401

Review by: Prof John Bryant (University of Exeter)

“In this area of medicine, nothing is risk-free

If I were to say what mistakes we had made over the years, it would always be that we have gone too far. We should have stopped earlier. We have added to the suffering of this child and family. But …”

Great Ormond Street is the flagship London hospital for paediatrics. It has been the focus for a long-term “fly on the wall” series. In this moving and sometimes upsetting episode Fix My Genes (Season 3, episode 1, 1 hour duration) we are introduced to three children who were born with inherited conditions that affect their immune systems. In all three, the conditions are, to different extents, life-limiting.

Sibling donation: Herb is a lively five-year-old who needs a bone marrow transplant due to a rare genetic disorder, NEMO. Without it, he is ‘unlikely to reach his second decade.’ His six-year-old brother Rufus is a perfect match and their parents give consent for Rufus to donate bone marrow to save his brother. They are warned that with Herb’s condition there is a 10% chance of mortality. In this instance everything goes well and we see the happy outcome of the procedure, albeit that Herb was in hospital for several weeks before being allowed to go home. I note that we also meet Herb’s sister Lily, who, rather strangely, has started to show symptoms at the age of ten. She may at some time in the future need a transplant but certainly not for the present. Finding a matched donor would be an issue here. Continue reading

Cancer immunotherapy breakthrough (BBC News)

“Society is going to have to make a judgement on what value it puts on extending the lives of cancer patients against all the other demands on the NHS”

Broadcaster: BBC 1

Year: 2015

Genre: News

URL: http://bobnational.net/record/298571

On 1st June 2015, there was quite a large amount of coverage of a recent clinical trial reported to have had dramatic effects on the survival rates of patients with melanoma (a form of skin cancer). The reason this particular clip (4:45) stands out as useful for teaching is the combination of a clear explanation of what the new cancer immunotherapy drugs are doing, but also the difficult decisions to be made in the light of a growing number of exciting but expensive new drugs for cancer. What price can a health service afford to pay to extend one person’s life when, with a finite budget, buying their medicine means that someone elsewhere in the system will miss out on their treatment instead?

For more on this story see this link (BBC website).

The Wonderful World of Blood

In keeping with his usual style, Mosley uses himself as the subject of the experiments in this programme

In keeping with his usual style, Mosley uses himself as the subject of the experiments in this programme

Broadcaster: BBC Four

Year: 2015

Genre: Documentary

URL: http://bobnational.net/record/288449

Review by Will Channell

Michael Mosley’s latest documentary covers blood and the roles of the human circulation system. By performing six different experiments on samples of his own blood he is able to show the wide variety of biological functions fulfilled by the blood and demonstrate their medical relevance.

This programme is great for a basic description of physiology and immunology; discussing ideas from oxygen uptake to the immune response. As he often does, Michael Mosley uses his own body to perform these experiments, making black pudding out of his own blood and calculating the volume of oxygen carried by his blood during exercise (his vO2). The latter is shown in this clip and would be of particular use to first year undergraduates studying a physiology module; it might also be used within physiology practical classes to introduce experiments.

The strengths of this programme relate strongly to the presenter. The reason Michael Mosley has become the BBC’s ‘go-to’ man for medical documentaries is because he is able to explain complex ideas in a very simple manner. A qualified doctor himself, he presents the show in an engaging manner, guiding the viewer slowly through things, with clever and interesting examples. For instance in this show he uses white water kayaking as a way to demonstrate a haematological response to shock; this enables the viewer to gain information without getting tied down in lengthy descriptions or difficult diagrams.

In contrast the weakness of The Wonderful World of Blood is the fact that, although easy to watch, it is only an hour long, and therefore does not delve to deeply into the study of human blood. Consequently it is difficult to see this show being used for anything more complex than an introduction to blood physiology.

Overall though this programme offers a fascinating look into the human circulatory system that could be watched by anyone with an interest in the area. However anyone looking to study blood in more detail will need an additional resource.

Secret Universe: The hidden life of a cell

The programme includes amazing animations interpreting what is going on within our cells

The programme includes amazing animations interpreting what is going on within our cells

Broadcaster: BBC2

Year: 2012

Genre: documentary, animation

URL: http://bobnational.net/record/273595

Review by Josh Sutton

It can be incredibly difficult to visualise certain aspects of cell biology. Static, two dimensional images do not allow full appreciation of the mechanism or complexity of a protein or other intracellular structures. In this hour-long documentary, various cell substructures are represented, including motor proteins, aspects of the cytoskeleton and endocytosis.

Narrated by David Tennant, the documentary begins with a brief (and admittedly basic) overview of cell structure, giving an explanation of the function of various components. It then moves on to show what happens to a cell during infection by adenovirus (beginning at 9:55). Footage shows how infection occurs, and how the body’s immune system responds. We are then shown how the virus modifies the cell to produce more viral particles (starting from 38 mins). Short interviews from scientists, such as geneticist Steve Jones, add more depth to the information presented. Because of this, this is an excellent video to watch for those interested in cell biology, virology and immunology, and is worthwhile watching in its entirety.

Since it is aimed at a general audience, the depth of content in this documentary is not at the same level as it would be in lectures. Some of the simplification is the use of more common terms, such as saying white blood cells instead of leukocytes, and using ‘keys’ to explain receptor binding, as well as not mentioning specific protein names (such as clathrin). However, the value of this video is not in its scientific descriptions, but in the excellent visuals.

It would be beneficial to watch this video while revising, and then fill in the missing aspects of the science yourself, testing your own knowledge and helping you to identify areas where your knowledge is lacking.

The IMDB page for this documentary is here. According to the TRILT database it has only been transmitted once, on 21st October 2012.

Cancer Immunotherapy (News)

New drugs can block the ability of cancer cells to evade detection by the immune system

New drugs can block the ability of cancer cells to evade detection by the immune system

Broadcaster: BBC1

Year: 2014

Genre: News bulletin


In this 2.5 minute news clip from June 2014, science correspondent Fergus Walsh explains the potential of immunotherapy as part of the physician’s armoury against cancer. Two drugs Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab which have shown exciting prospects against advanced melanoma are discussed.