Twins hold much fascination for other twins and the general public alike, but not everyone is aware of what a valuable role they are playing in helping us understand more about health and disease. Tuesday the 15th and 22nd March 2015 saw the airing of a special two part series on SBS Insight, looking at what the latest research about twins can tell us about ourselves. Over 500,000 viewers tuned in, making it one of the most popular Insight programs to date.
The first episode featured the latest findings on the heritability of traits like learning ability, self-esteem, political views, religious beliefs, risk-taking, humour, happiness levels and singing talent, just to name a few. The second part delved more into the latest twin research findings on health and disease.
Nine of the ATR’s researchers were guest panellists on the two episodes and discussed how twins 'open up new doors' to teach us more about what it is to be human.
University of Sydney back pain researcher Dr Paulo Ferreira reveals that "twin research isn't about similarities; it's about difference". The ATR's Deputy Director Jeff Craig agreed revealing that "what happens in the womb can last a lifetime…the next frontier of twin research is understanding what happens in the womb – and how twins differ".
Twins Craig and Brenton Gurney were two of the many ATR members who appeared on the show with a fascinating story to tell. Brenton reported that "if I wasn't on the twin registry I probably wouldn't be here" after his twin, who had been suffering headaches convinced him to join a study that involved an MRI. Incredibly, their participation resulted in the discovery of a brain tumour in Brenton's skull base. Brenton, who had not experienced any symptoms, credits Craig's headaches –and their subsequent study involvement - with saving his life.
Not all twins receive a direct benefit from their research participation, but instead are assured that their input has immeasurable value in helping researchers learn more about conditions from diabetes to autism and eating disorders. This is something that resonated with many Insight viewers who were twins or parents of twins, with the ATR receiving nearly 400 new registrations and a further 100 expressions of interest in study involvement from existing members.
We would like to thank our researchers and our wonderful twins who so willingly gave up their time and 'insights' to contribute to the show and highlight the important work being done by twin research.
As our Director, Professor John Hopper, stated: "Our job is to try and understand how we can make a difference to the health of all Australians".
You can learn more about the Insight Twins feature and watch the episodes at: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight/tvepisode/twins