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For immediate release
September 10, 2001
Contact: Amy Briskin, 212-794-6644;
Laura Gross, NPR: 202-513-2304;

The DNA Files Confronts Controversies in Genetic Science

WASHINGTON, DC - Peabody Award-winning correspondent John Hockenberry returns to NPR in October 2001 to host The DNA Files, a series of five new hour-long documentaries about developments in the world of genetic science. These fast-paced programs will explore the difficult ethical, social and legal issues surrounding topics including stem cell research, cloning, infectious diseases and aging. For broadcast days and times in a specific city, contact your local NPR member station, call the contacts listed above or visit

"Discoveries in genetics are influencing the way we think about our health, our environment, our very identities," said Bari Scott, executive producer of the series. "The DNA Files explores the science and the issues it generates in a lively, informative and non-patronizing manner, engaging our listeners in the international dialogue about these controversial topics."

In the series, listeners will go behind the scenes at Geron, the world's foremost stem cell research center; to the Canadian Arctic on a simulated mission to Mars; to the Savannah River nuclear reactor to hunt for mutant alligators and to the real Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine, Florida.

Each episode was developed in consultation with scientists and field experts, and was produced by an independent award-winning documentary producer.

The DNA Files premiered on NPR in 1998 and has won numerous awards, including an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for Journalism and a Clarion Award. Join The DNA Files to investigate:

DNA research has yielded a wealth of information about the natural world, giving biologists new tools to understand the complex workings of natural systems. They are discovering new evolutionary relationships, the health of populations and how to harness natural processes to clean up human-caused problems. Other scientists are using transgenic technology to create new species of microbes and plants that clean up toxic waste. Is the risk of releasing these new organisms worth the benefit of cleaning up the toxins? How well do we understand the risks of releasing new genetic material into the environment?

This program will take a look at the ethical and social implications of cutting-edge genetic medicine. It will focus on several controversial therapies, including gene therapy and stem cell research, each of which has its own ethical conundrums. How well is society equipped to deal with the advent of these approaches to medicine? What are the issues at stake and who will decide them?

A new field, astrobiology has brought together some of the great minds in astrophysics, geology and biology with the goal of determining such life-long questions as how life on Earth began and whether life exists "out there." So far, searches for life beyond Earth have yielded only more questions. Would we even know new life if we stumbled upon it? How would you go about looking for something so small that it can't be seen with a naked eye, especially when it's four billion miles from earth?

This program will look at what we are learning about infectious disease from DNA research such as DNA's influence on pathogens like E. coli and Staphylococcus, and what can be done to prevent them. This segment will also focus on new DNA research that examines our evolutionary relationship with infectious disease and whether it will be possible to eradicate disease forever.

What if you could live another 100 years? How far away is science from unlocking the key to the fountain of youth? Studies of worms, flies and mice suggest there is a genetic component to aging that we are just beginning to understand. This program will explore the animal research that gives us a glimpse of what might be possible for humans. Would you go without having your daily food to stay alive longer? It worked in mice, and one man is banking on caloric restriction as his fountain of youth. This program explores a range of genetic longevity studies and what results they may yield.

The DNA Files was developed by SoundVision Productions, a nonprofit public benefit corporation founded in 1995 to bridge the gap between the public and experts in such fields as science and technology and to integrate social, ethical and legal issues with highly technical concepts by producing high-quality materials for broadcast, workplace training, and classroom use. The National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation fund the program.

NPR, renowned for its journalistic excellence and standard-setting news, information and cultural programming, serves a growing audience of more than 16 million Americans each week via more than 640 public radio stations. NPR Online at brings hourly newscasts, news features, commentaries and live events to Internet users through original online reports, audio streaming and other multimedia elements. NPR also distributes programming to listeners in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa via NPR Worldwide, to military installations overseas via American Forces Network and throughout Japan via cable.