The Secret Micro Universe: The Cell

There is a battle playing out inside your body right now. It started billions of years ago and it is still being fought in every one of us every minute of every day. It is the story of a viral infection – the battle for the cell.

This film reveals the exquisite machinery of the human cell system from within the inner world of the cell itself – from the frenetic membrane surface that acts as a security system for everything passing in and out of the cell, the dynamic highways that transport cargo across the cell and the remarkable turbines that power the whole cellular world to the amazing nucleus housing DNA and the construction of thousands of different proteins all with unique tasks. The virus intends to commandeer this system to one selfish end: to make more viruses. And they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal.

Exploring the very latest ideas about the evolution of life on earth and the bio-chemical processes at the heart of every one of us, and revealing a world smaller than it is possible to comprehend, in a story large enough to fill the biggest imaginations. With contributions from Professor Bonnie L Bassler of Princeton University, Dr Nick Lane and Professor Steve Jones of University College London and Cambridge University’s Susanna Bidgood.

Narrated by David Tennant, this is the story of a battle that has been raging for billions of years and is being fought inside every one of us right now. Swept up in a timeless drama – the fight between man and virus – viewers will see an exciting frontier of biology come alive and be introduced to the complex biochemical processes at the heart of all of us.

The programme features contributions from Professor Bonnie L Bassler of Princeton University, Dr Nick Lane and Professor Steve Jones of UCL, and Cambridge University’s Susanna Bidgood. It is the life story of a single epithelial lung cell on the front line of the longest war in history, waged across the most alien universe imaginable: our battle against viral infection.

David McNab, creative director of Wide-Eyed Entertainment Ltd, commented: “This programme would never have been possible without the guidance, enthusiasm and financial support of the Wellcome Trust. It is the kind of cutting-edge, complex science that needs ambitious visuals to make it accessible to a general audience.

“It has been a privilege to bring to life the work of so many brilliant and dedicated scientists and to reveal a scientific frontier that is both important and genuinely awe-inspiring. I sincerely hope it becomes an inspiration to a new generation of scientists and film-makers.”

Clare Matterson, director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, says: “‘Secret Universe’ will reveal a world that few people will have seen before, presenting scientifically accurate molecular biology in a gripping visual manner – perfect Sunday night viewing. It is a wonderful example of science programming at its best.”

Wellcome Trust broadcast grants offer support for projects and programmes that engage an audience with issues in biomedical science in an innovative, entertaining and accessible way. Previous programmes funded through the scheme include ‘The Great Sperm Race’ and ‘Inside Nature’s Giants’.

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  1. Much more interesting than I expected. Shame about it being so dumbed down in some ways but would make a great one for the kids to watch to get a grip of the basics.
    Subject matter is, of course, spellbinding and amazing as always.

  2. Says this video is private

  3. I watched this only a week ago for my bio homework and now it says the video is not available in my country, even though it’s an english video?!?! what the hell’s that all about?

  4. They should make a game from this.

  5. Awesome! if only they could make one of these babies for every cellular process ! kind of agree with previous comments, would have been nice if it had gone into more detail but hey . I have no idea whats going on with star ratings? bugggggg

  6. One of the best documentary Ive watched in a looooong time. Amazing!

  7. 8/10

    – Excellent visuals, as advertised.

    – The whirring sounds of the virus’… engine (thrusters?) were a bit over the top for me, but I suppose kids would love it, so that’s fine. This kind of documentary makes me feel that it would be appropriate to preface it with the comment, “Based on a true story.”

    – Very few details given, which is fine for some audiences. I’m sure it would succeed with engaging them and generating interest in the subject, which is probably the main goal of most documentaries.

    – I would have preferred if there were less emphasis on the ambitions and goals of a virus or cell, and more focus on the sort of clock-work mechanisms that underpin cell activity. For example (not from the video), when cells divide it isn’t so much a choice as it is a fact that when cells grow their volume increases at a smaller rate than their surface area supports. This means that the membrane would wrinkle but since there is less pressure inside the cell than outside the membrane folds inwards and eventually meets with itself and thus divides the cell into two. The ratio between membrane growth rate and volume growth rate determine how large cells are before they end up being divided. I don’t know if there is research investigating how the changes in cellular pressure cause other changes such as the splitting of the DNA, but I’d be surprised if such a cue wasn’t exploited. From this video, I’d have loved to know what would cause a cell to release the signal that a virus has damaged it. I’d guess that it’s sort of a “dead-man’s switch” mechanism (i.e. the cell constantly generates this signal, but regular cell functions normally terminate it), since I know it won’t be because the cell got desperate.

  8. Videos like this gives me clarity of thought and clears my mind of primal thoughts. I wonder if this is the same kind of experience meditators have.

  9. i highly recomend to watch this 🙂 one of best documentaryes i watched! seriously

  10. I don’t know what you’re talking about some guy, some of that virus stuff was only recently discovered! Get past the first few minutes!

  11. I like the great CG recreations of cellular activity. But I hate how this is dumbed down it is. Any high schooler wouldn’t have much to learn here.

    I wish, now that we have this cool CG, that we could go more in depth with the more complex stuff, get closer to what’s happening molecularity. They mention ATP for like half a second but don’t explain how it works. This pattern repeats.

    Still neat, worth a watch. I tried to give it 8 stars and i think i just gave it -25. buggy thing

  12. I liked it.