Family 23 is an intimate family drama set against the backdrop of a global scientific struggle.
This feature documentary tells the story of the Jennings family, an ordinary family from the Midlands, who found themselves in the middle of one of the biggest breakthroughs in the identification and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease; the first family in the world to be diagnosed with hereditary Alzheimer’s.
Despite widespread belief that Alzheimer’s had no familial link, throughout the 1980s Carol Jennings lobbied doctors, urging them to explore her hunch that her father and his four siblings’ diagnoses with the condition were linked.
Years later, after discovering a team at University College London (UCL) studying the disease, Carol’s fears were confirmed: a gene for early-onset dementia was discovered within her family.
This meant that Carol had a 50:50 chance of inheriting the condition, and if she did, her two young children, John and Emily, would face the same risk. Carol chose not to test for the disease, but as she entered her 50s things began to unravel.
The research into Carol’s family kicked off the biggest research project ever undertaken into familial Alzheimer’s. After numerous setbacks, this year UCL is embarking on a new wave of pioneering medical trials in the hope of finding a treatment or a cure.
Using archive footage, diaries, and home movies the film tells the story of Carol’s legacy and follows the dilemmas her children now face. Carol has lived with Alzheimer’s for over 10 years, and now, in their 30s, John and Emily are confronted with the same difficult question their mother faced years previously: have they inherited the faulty gene?
Family 23, (1x90) for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer is being made by Expectation Factual.