Immunology wars: a billion antibodies

3 minutes

How our bodies can create billions of defences against disease with just 20,000 genes

How is the human body able to produce antibodies to mount a defence against any attacking microorganism – even those it’s never encountered before? After all, our mere 20,000 genes seem woefully inadequate to produce the billions of different antibodies necessary to fight every possible disease. The problem stumped researchers for decades until the Japanese scientist Susumu Tonegawa discovered the key to our incredible adaptive capacity for fighting contagions – an accomplishment that earned him the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1987. The answer, explored in this brief animation from Nature, lies in recombination-activating genes (RAGs) – DNA-‘shuffling’ enzymes that can create proteins capable of fighting any foreign invader.

Video by Nature

Animator: Dog & Rabbit

Video/Life Stages

Ageing to the beat of their own drums – from one to 100 years old

3 minutes

ORIGINAL
Video/Automation & Robotics

If we are what we do, how can we stay human in an era of automation?

7 minutes

Video/Art

James Turrell’s singular quest to transform a crater into a natural-light observatory

8 minutes

volume_up
play_arrow
pause
Idea/Illness & Disease

How a generation of consumptives defined 19th-century Romanticism

Michael Barrett

volume_up
play_arrow
pause
Essay/Medical Ethics

Intersex rights

Children born with in-between sex development are subject to surgeries that many believe violate their human rights

Alice Dreger

Video/Illness & Disease

The restless rhythms of being a teenager with an incurable illness

12 minutes

Essay/Gender

Who is a sportswoman?

Elite female athletes are subjected to invasive gender tests, and hormone treatments if they fail. This is deeply unfair

Silvia Camporesi

Idea/Illness & Disease

The very microbes that helped us evolve now make us sick

Asu Erden

EXCLUSIVE
Video/Addiction

Can writing an 11,000-page autobiographical thesis cure addiction?

16 minutes