Arxiu d'etiquetes: cinema

From lab to big screen (II)

As I told you in the previous article on genetics and cinema, there is a wide variety of films that talk about genetics. In the next article we will talk about science fiction, with two well-known films. Beware: spoilers!

GATTACA (1997)

Director: Andrew Niccol

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law

Genre: Science fiction

Story line: Vincent is one of the last “natural” babies born into a sterile, genetically-enhanced world, where life expectancy and disease likelihood are ascertained at birth. Myopic and due to die at 30, he has no chance of a career in a society that now discriminates against your genes, instead of your gender, race or religion. Going underground, he assumes the identity of Jerome, crippled in an accident, and achieves prominence in the Gattaca Corporation, where he is selected for his lifelong desire: a manned mission to Saturn’s 14th moon (titan). Constantly passing gene tests by diligently using samples of Jerome’s hair, skin, blood and urine, his now-perfect world is thrown into increasing desperation, his dream within reach, when the mission director is killed – and he carelessly loses an eyelash at the scene! Certain that they know the murderer’s ID, but unable to track down the former Vincent, the police start to close in, with extra searches, and new gene tests. With the once-in-a-lifetime launch only days away, Vincent must avoid arousing suspicion, while passing the tests, evading the police, and not knowing whom he can trust.

Relation with genetics: GATTACA is the “genetic” film par excellence. Starting with the title, this is formed by the initials of the four nitrogenous bases that make up DNA (guanine, adenine, thymine and cytosine). In addition, the helical shape of the DNA is repeated in several moments of the film, as in the stairs of Vincent’s house.

The main issue is about genetic selection, all children born have been genetically selected, closely linked to bioethics. The idea of ​​this selection is to reach eugenics, that is, to improve the population by selecting the “best” humans. This concept can be related to the Hitler’s Germany, who believed that Germans belonged to a superior group of races called “Aryan”. Hitler said that German Aryan race had been better endowed than the others and that this biological superiority destined Germans to oversee an empire in Eastern Europe.

Although nowadays genetic selection is valid and is used to avoid diseases, it is not applied with the same purposes as those of the film. At present, it is decided to carry out genetic selection after having studied the family and carried out the appropriate genetic counselling. It aims to help patients and their families avoid the pain and suffering caused by a genetic disease and should not be confused with the eugenic objective of reducing the incidence of genetic diseases or the frequency of alleles considered to be deleterious in the population.

This is very related to the genetic discrimination, case also exposed in the film. Gattaca is situated in a possible future in which genetics, trying to improve the quality of life of society, causes a movement of discrimination.

When we talk about discrimination, we tend to think about racial discrimination. This is defined as the different or exclusive treatment of a person for reasons of racial or ethnic origin, which constitutes a violation of the fundamental rights of individuals, as well as an attack on their dignity. Racism has been present throughout the history of mankind, especially in the twentieth century with racial discrimination in the United States and apartheid in South Africa.

For some time now, genetic discrimination has been gaining weight. It happens when people are treated differently by their company or insurance company because they have a genetic mutation that causes or increases the risk of a hereditary disorder. Fear of discrimination is a common concern among people who undergo genetic testing, and is a current problem that concerns the population because your own genome does not have to be a curriculum vitae that opens or closes doors as happens in the film. Vincent goes to work in Gattaca after performing a urine test and a blood test, since in Gattaca they do not choose workers for their ability or ability but for their DNA.

However, the film ends with the sentence “There is no gene for the human spirit”. This means that, although the society in which Gattaca is located is based on genetic modification, it does not affect the morality and final character of people because there is no way to genetically relate to the spirit, only the body has the genetic information.

Video 1. Trailer Gattaca (Source: YouTube)


Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum

Genre: Science fiction

Story line: Huge advancements in scientific technology have enabled a mogul to create an island full of living dinosaurs. John Hammond has invited four individuals, along with his two grandchildren, to join him at Jurassic Park. But will everything go according to plan? A park employee attempts to steal dinosaur embryos, critical security systems are shut down and it now becomes a race for survival with dinosaurs roaming freely over the island.

Relation with genetics: In the first film of this saga, from dinosaur’s fossils scientists extract DNA to be able to clone dinosaurs. The cloned dinosaurs will be part of the Jurassic park on which the film is based.

It is true that DNA can be extracted from bones, widely used in forensic genetics. Same as the issue of cloning, which was known by the Dolly sheep, the first large animal cloned from an adult cell in July 1996. But the film goes further and raises the possibility of reintroducing, in today’s world, extinct species and challenge natural selection.

Video 2. Trailer Jurassic Park (Source: YouTube)



From lab to big screen (I)

A little more than a month for the great gala of the cinema, the Oscars, I present some films related to genetics. There is a variety of feature films, especially sci-fi. For this reason, this is the first of several articles about cinema. In this article I will focus on films based on genetic diseases.

WONDER (2017)

Director: Stephen Chbosky

Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson

Genre: Drama

Story line: A 10 years-old boy born with a facial deformity is destined to fit in at a new school, and to make everyone understand he is just another ordinary kid, and that beauty is not skin deep.

Relation with genetics: Auggie suffers Treacher Collins syndrome, a condition that affects the development of bones and other tissues of the face. This condition affects an estimated 1 in 50,000 people. In most cases, it is due to a genetic mutation of chromosome 5. Specifically, in the gene TCOF1, involved in the development of bones and other tissues of the face.

Video 1. Wonder trailer (Source: YouTube)


Director: Guillem Morales

Cast: Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar, Julia Gutiérrez Caba

Genre: Terror

Story line: It tells the story of a woman slowly going blind, the death of her twin sister tries to uncover the mysterious.

Relation with genetics: Both Julia and her sister suffer from retinitis pigmentosa. This disease causes the progressive loss of vision, affecting the retina, which is the layer of light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye.

The first symptoms tend to be the loss of night vision and difficult to guide in low light. Later, the disease produces the appearance of blind spots in the lateral vision. With the passage of time, these blind spots come together producing a tunnel vision (Figure 1). Finally, this leads to blindness.

Figure 1. Comparison between normal view and view wtih retinitis pigmentosa (Source: EyeHealthWeb)

The inheritance pattern can be autosomal dominant, recessive or linked to the X chromosome. In the first case, a single copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disease. Most people with autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa have an affected father and other family members with the disorder.

Video 2. Julia’s eyes trailer (Source: YouTube)


Director: Nick Cassavetes

Cast: Cameron Díaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin

Genre: Drama

Story line: Sara and Brian Fitzgerald’s life with their young son and their two-year-old daughter, Kate, is forever altered when they learn that Kate has leukaemia. The parents’ only hope is to conceive another child, Anna, specifically intended to save Kate’s life. Kate and Anna share a bond closer than most sisters: though Kate is older her life depends on Anna. Until Anna, now 11, says “no. Seeking medical emancipation, she hires her own lawyer, initiating a court case that divides the family and that could leave Kate’s rapidly failing body in the hands of fate.

Relation with genetics: Leukemias are the first type of cancer in which genetic alterations were described, such as translocations, which are the most frequent (more than 50% of cases). In addition, these have high prognosis and diagnostic value. There are many types of leukemias, therefore it is a diverse group of blood cancers, which affect blood cells and bone marrow. It is the most frequent type of cancer in children; however, it affects more adults than children.

A first classification is based on the lineage: lymphoid (blood-forming cells) or myeloid (cells of the bone marrow). At the same time, you are (lymphoid or myeloid) also classified according to the clinical presentation: acute (symptoms in short period of time and severe symptoms) or chronic (the time is longer).

In adults, acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) are more frequent, while in children it is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Video 3. My sister’s keeper trailer (Source: YouTube)


Director: George Miller

Cast: Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Peter Ustinov

Genre: Drama

Story line: The story concerns 5-years-old Lorenzo, suffering mightily from an apparently incurable and degenerative brain illness called ALD. His parents, an economist and a linguist, refuse to accept the received wisdom that there is no hope, and set about learning biochemistry to pursue a cure on their own. The film becomes an intriguing scientific mystery mixed with a story of pain, grief, and the strain on the two adults.

Relation with genetics: Lorenzo suffers from adrenoleukodystrophy (ADL) or also known as Schilder’s disease. It is a disease that mainly affects boys, since it has a pattern of inheritance linked to the X chromosome. It is in this chromosome where the ABCD1 gene is located, involved in the transport of very long chain fatty acids in peroxisomes (organelles involved in the metabolism of fatty acids).

It mainly affects the nervous system and the adrenal glands, which are small glands located in the upper part of each kidney. In this disorder, myelin deteriorates, the coating that isolates the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, reducing the ability of the nerves to transmit information to the brain. In addition, damage to the outer layer of the adrenal glands cause a shortage of certain hormones, resulting in weakness, weight loss, changes in the skin, vomiting and coma.

Video 4. Lorenzo’s oil trailer (Source: YouTube)



Del laboratori a la gran pantalla (I)

A poc més d’un mes per la gran gala del cinema, els premis Oscar, us presento algunes pel·lícules relacionades amb la genètica. Hi ha gran varietat de llargmetratges, sobre tot de ciència ficció, per aquest motiu aquest és el primer de varis articles sobre cine. En aquest article ens centrarem en algunes pel·lícules basades en malalties genètiques.

WONDER (2017)

Direcció: Stephen Chbosky

Repartiment: Julia Roberts, Jacob Tremblay, Owen Wilson

Gènere: Drama

Sinopsi: August Pullman és un nen nascut amb malformacions facials que, fins ara, li han impedit anar a l’escola. Auggie es converteix en el més improbable dels herois quan entra a cinquè de l’escola local, amb el suport dels seus pares. La compassió i l’acceptació dels seus nous companys i de la resta de la comunitat seran posats a prova, però l’extraordinari viatge de l’Auggie els unirà a tots i demostrarà que no pots camuflar-te quan has nascut per fer quelcom gran.

Relació amb la genètica: El protagonista d’aquesta pel·lícula pateix la síndrome de Treacher Collins, una malformació craniofacial congènita rara i que afecta a 2 de cada 100.000 naixements. En gran part dels casos, es deu a una mutació genètica del cromosoma 5. Concretament, en el gen TCOF1, implicat en el desenvolupament d’ossos i altres teixits de la cara.

Video 1. Tràiler Wonder en castellà (Font: YouTube)


Direcció: Guillem Morales

Repartiment: Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar, Julia Gutiérrez Caba

Gènere: Terror

Sinopsi: La Júlia torna a Bellevue amb el seu marit per visitar a la seva germana, que està perdent la vista degut a una malaltia degenerativa de la que va intentar operar-se sense èxit. A l’arribar, descobreixen que s’ha suicidat. La Júlia no només ha d’enfrontar-se a la pèrdua de la seva germana, sinó també a la pèrdua de tota esperança per aturar la imminent ceguera, ja que ella pateix la mateixa malaltia i sembla compartir el seu mateix destí.

Relació amb la genética: Totes dues germanes pateixen retinosi pigmentària. Aquesta malaltia provoca la pèrdua progressiva de visió, afectant a la retina, que és la capa de teixit sensible a la llum en la part posterior de l’ull.

Els primers símptomes acostumen a ser la pèrdua de visió nocturna i això dificulta guiar-se amb poca llum. Més tard, la malaltia causa l’aparició de punts cecs en la visió lateral. Amb el pas del temps, aquests punts cecs s’uneixen produint una visió de túnel (Figura 1). Finalment, això acaba amb una ceguesa completa.

Figura 1. Comparació de visió normal (esquerra) i visió túnel d’una persona que pateix retinosi pigmentària (dreta) (Font: EyeHealthWeb)

El patró d’herència pot ser autosòmic dominant, recessiu o lligat al cromosoma X. En el primer cas, amb una sola còpia del gen alterat a cada cèl·lula és suficient per causar la malaltia. La majoria de persones amb retinosi pigmentària autosòmica dominant tenen un progenitor afectat i altres membres de la família amb el trastorn.

Video 2. Tràiler Els ulls de la Júlia en castellà (Font: YouTube)


Direcció: Nick Cassavetes

Repartiment: Cameron Díaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin

Gènere: Drama

Sinopsi: La vida de la Sara i en Brian FitzGerald canvia radicalment quan a la seva filla Kate li diagnostiquen una leucèmia. La única esperança de salvació és recorrer a la enginyeria genética per tenir un altre fill, l’Anne. Entre ella i la Kate s’estableix una relació molt estreta, sobre tot perquè ambdues han de sotmetre’s a diversos tractaments mèdics i compartir llargues estàncies a l’hospital. No obstant, quan l’Anne compleix onze anys contracta a un advocat per emancipar-se mèdicament.

Relació amb la genética: Les leucèmies són el primer tipus de càncer en el que es van descriure alteracions genètiques, com les translocacions, que són les més freqüents (més del 50% dels casos). A més, aquestes tenen valor pronòstic i diagnòstic elevat. Existeixen molts tipus de leucèmies, per tant, és un grup divers de càncers hematològics, que afecten cèl·lules de la sang i la medul·la òssia. És el tipus de cáncer més freqüent en nens; tot i això afecta a més adults que nens.

Una primera classificació és en base al llinatge: limfoide (cèl·lules formadores de sang) o mieloide (cèl·lules de la medul·la òssia). A la vegada, aquestes (limfoides o mieloides) també es clasifiquen segons la presentació clínica: aguda (símptomes en un curt període de temps i símptomes greus) o crònica (el temps és més llarg).

En adults són més freqüents la leucèmia mieloide aguda (AML) i la leucèmia limfocítica crònica (CLL), mentre que en nens ho és la leucèmia limfoblàstica aguda (ALL).

Video 3. Tràiler La decisió de l’Anne en castellà (Font: YouTube)


Direcció: George Miller

Repartiment: Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Peter Ustinov

Gènere: Drama

Sinopsi: Als tres anys, en Lorenzo comença a desenvolupar una greu malaltia neurológica per la qual no existeix cap tractament conegut. En molt poc temps, el nen queda prostrat al llit: no pot caminar, ni veure ni parlar. Els seus pares no es rendeixen i lluiten sense parar fins a esgotar tots els recursos que tenen al seu abast. Tot i que cap dels dos és metge, comencen a estudiar genètica, biologia, neurologia… i busquen ajuda en tots els camps mèdics posibles.

Relació amb la genètica: En Lorenzo pateix adrenoleucodistròfia (ADL) o també coneguda com la malaltia de Schilder. És una malaltia que afecta principalment a nens macles, ja que tenen un patró d’herència lligat al cromosoma X. És en aquest cromosoma on es localitza el gen ABCD1, implicat en el transport dels àcids grassos de cadena molt llarga en els peroxisomes (orgànuls que participen en el metabolisme dels àcids grassos).

Afecta principalment al sistema nerviós i les glàndules suprarrenals, que són petites glàndules localitzades a la part superior de cada ronyó. En aquest trastorn, es produeix un deteriorament de la mielina, el recobriment que aïlla els nervis en el cervell i la medul·la espinal, fet que redueix la capacitat dels nervis de transmetre informació al cervell. A més, el dany a la capa externa de les glàndules suprarrenals causa una escassetat de certes hormones, donant com a resultat debilitat, pèrdua de pes, canvis en la pell, vòmits i coma.

Video 4. Tráiler L’oli de la vida en castellà (Font: YouTube)