Gene therapy

June 30, 2015

Gene therapy was the subject covered in the best video produced by students in the 2014-15 cohort of Medical Biochemists at the University of Leicester.

This is an excellent example of “whiteboard animation” – you don’t get such an effective result without significant planning. The video is wrong to say treatment of X-SCID was the first successful use; the first case involved Ashanti DeSilva, who had ADA-SCID. It does not include any coverage of genome editing methods, which are the most exciting new development in this area. Nevertheless, a very useful primer on the topic.


Performance-enhancing Drugs in Sport

June 24, 2015

Each year second year students on the Medical Biochemistry programme at the University of Leicester produce videos on bioethical topics as one of their assignments.

This video on Performance-enhancing drugs in sport was rated as the runner-up for the 2014-15 cohort. Although there are some mispronunciations and it would have been better shot landscape than portrait, it nevertheless raises some of the key ethical issues in an engaging manner, and is an excellent example of paper-based animation.


Incidental findings in biomedical research

June 16, 2015

Investigations such as genome sequencing and brain imaging have the potential to reveal details about the patient of research subject which were not the principal reason for the study. The ethical issues associated with such “incidental findings” is the subject of this short film, made by students at the University of Leicester.

The video was rated the third best produced by students in the 2014-15 cohort.

People interested in knowing more about the topic might also like to read:
Green et al. (2013) ACMG recommendations for reporting of incidental findings in clinical exome and genome sequencing Genetics in Medicine 15:565-574

Vernooji et al. (2007) Incidental Findings on Brain MRI in the General Population New England Journal of Medicine 357:1821-1828


August 28, 2014

VeriChips are radio-frequency identification devices (RFIDs) that have been under consideration for a range of medical and other uses.

This short video, produced by students at the University of Leicester, considers some of the science and ethics associated with this technology.

Legal Highs

August 28, 2014

This short video was produced by second year students at the University of Leicester (UK) as an assessed piece of work. Unusually effective use of a simple “talking head” approach, combined with some graphics using Videoscribe manages to convey some of the ethical issues associated with Legal highs (New Psychoactive Substances).

There IS one major error in the video – the four principles are autonomy, beneficence, justice and non-maleficence (NOT non-malevolence).

Cognitive Enhancement

August 28, 2014

This short video on cognitive enhancement was produced by second-year undergraduates at the University of Leicester. Through the use of role-play, and the ruminations of the central character “Dave”, they manage to capture many of the ethical issues associated with use of these compounds.

Clone (2010): Bringing loved ones back from the dead

January 13, 2014

(Warning: contains plot spoilers!) Cloning is a frequent theme in contemporary cinema. We have blogged about some of these previously (The 6th Day and Godsend). The 2010 movie Clone (aka Womb in other parts of the world) is an interesting addition to the collection. In particular, this film offers some insight into how generational relationships might be affected by cloning.

Rebecca (Eva Green) gives birth to a clone of her former partner Tommy

Rebecca (Eva Green) gives birth to a clone of her former partner Tommy

Plot summary: Rebecca and Tommy are close friends as children, before her mother’s job requires Rebecca to move to Japan. Having completed a degree, the adult Rebecca (Eva Green) returns. She and Tommy (Matt Smith) renew their friendship and quickly become lovers.

On the way to conducting an act of civil disobedience at the nearby cloning facility, Tommy is killed in a car crash. Rather than pursuing his campaign against the cloners, Rebecca turns to their services and becomes the surrogate mother for a clone of Tommy.

Although cloning is becoming more established in their society, prevailing attitudes against “copies” means that Rebecca keeps the details about her son’s origins a secret. When, however, the truth is leaked Rebecca and Tommy move to a more remote location. The younger Tommy only comes to know he is a clone towards the end of the film.

Reflections: Clone is a fairly slow moving and low-key movie, more arthouse than blockbuster. It is somewhat reminiscent in tone to Blueprint, which has some similar themes. If you are looking for clips to launch a discussion about the ethics of cloning, the most useful section runs from about 00:50:00 to 00:53:30. Two scenes, running consecutively, nicely encapsulate some of the tensions. In the first, Rebecca comes across Tommy and his friend Eric talking to a girl Dima about her rabbit. Rebecca extends Dima an invitation to come to their house, which the girl declines. As Dima walks away, Tommy and Eric compare notes, to see if they could detect the weird smell that “copies” are supposed to have.

In the follow-up scene, a group of mothers are chastising Rebecca for having offered to let Dima come to her house, because she is a copy. As one of the women puts it, Dima is a “Victim of artificial incest”, since she is a clone of her own grandmother.

As an alternative, you might use a section starting at 00:38:00. It is just after the original Tommy has died, and Rebecca raises the possibility of cloning him with Tommy’s mum (she is horrified by the notion, but Tommy’s father later provides the necessary material for the process).

There are a number of trailers for the film on YouTube. There are actually significant differences between the trailer for the UK version Clone (here) and the US trailer for Womb (here, and below).  The latter is a much better taster to whet the appetite regarding the the ethical issues in the film.

The film is unsettling. In particular the sexual tension between Rebecca and both versions of Tommy (the photo and video above both capture something of this). Towards the end of the film, when the clone discovers the truth about his identity, he and Rebecca have sex. Is this incest (as the earlier observer had suggested regarding the generational confusion surrounding Dima)? It is not a loving act on Tommy’s part. Shortly afterwards he leaves.


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