News / Science & Technology

Smithsonian Explores Genome Revolution

Smithsonian Genome Exhibit Unlocks 21st Century Science of Lifei
X
June 27, 2013 8:25 PM
A new exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington celebrates two scientific milestones: The 10th anniversary of the completion of the human genome project, the first blueprint of the human body, and the 60th anniversary of the discovery of DNA’s double helix which laid the foundation for understanding how our genetic information is encoded and copied. We join VOA’s Rosanne Skirble on a tour through Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code, to learn more about our genetic selves.
Rosanne Skirble
A genomic revolution is changing people’s lives.  A new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington explores the extraordinary impact it is having on science, medicine and nature.  

"Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code" opened to large crowds seeking to learn more about the field. The exhibit marks two scientific milestones: The 10th anniversary of the completion of the human genome project, the first blueprint of the human body, and the 60th anniversary of the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure which laid the foundation for understanding how our genetic information is encoded and copied.

"I have always found it really intriguing that everything about who we are and what we look like is controlled by these tiny molecules called DNA," said Ben Thomas, 12, who came with his family from Dayton, Ohio excited to embark on a genomic journey. "This exhibit is like cake to me.  I love this stuff."

Multimedia story-telling

The four chemicals that make up the fabric of our being are on display in a mesmerizing variety of ways throughout the exhibit: from photographs of faces highlighting genetic differences to an endless scroll of the letters representing them in our genome - A,G,C and T - on a huge TV screen. 

Listen
Smithsonian Genomic Exhibiti
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Those same letters are projected in eye-popping orange on a mannequin nicknamed Gigi, says exhibit developer Meg Rivers. 

“She has on her the human genetic code and she is meant really to engage visitors and get them to think about having their own code and what does it means to them,” she said.

The human genetic code is projected on Gigi, a mannequin. (Donald E. Hurlbert & James Di Loreto, Smithsonian)The human genetic code is projected on Gigi, a mannequin. (Donald E. Hurlbert & James Di Loreto, Smithsonian)
x
The human genetic code is projected on Gigi, a mannequin. (Donald E. Hurlbert & James Di Loreto, Smithsonian)
The human genetic code is projected on Gigi, a mannequin. (Donald E. Hurlbert & James Di Loreto, Smithsonian)
Rivers says visitors get that chance thanks to 3D models, animated videos, personal stories, touch screen panels, interactive games and genetic sequencing equipment.  

“You are able to go into these different alcoves, looking at personalized medicine, exploring medical mysteries," she said. "What does it mean to your health, the ethnical, legal and social implications that people are now starting to come across in the media, looking at our ancient ancestry up to today and what genomic science means to our natural world, our understanding it, our environment.”

Genomic literacy

But genomic science is not static. A scrolling news line keeps visitors up-to-date on the latest medical breakthroughs.

Eric Green is director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which collaborated with the Smithsonian to create the exhibit.  He says the overall aim is to raise genomic literacy. 

“By the end of this decade, genomics will become very much part of medical care in areas like cancer, in areas like infectious disease, in areas like deciding which medications to give people, in areas related to rare diseases that have genetic cause," he said. "This is going to become part of the language of medical care and people are going to need to become familiar with it.”  

Genes in a bottle

For 12-year-old Kellen Alfaro that immersion starts immediately as she joins her classmates from Meridian Public Charter School in Washington in a hands-on activity to capture DNA from cheek cells. 

Visitors explore the human genome and ancient genomic history. (Donald E. Hurlbert & James Di Loreto, Smithsonian)Visitors explore the human genome and ancient genomic history. (Donald E. Hurlbert & James Di Loreto, Smithsonian)
x
Visitors explore the human genome and ancient genomic history. (Donald E. Hurlbert & James Di Loreto, Smithsonian)
Visitors explore the human genome and ancient genomic history. (Donald E. Hurlbert & James Di Loreto, Smithsonian)
Those cells are transferred from her saliva into a tube that has a solution that makes DNA visible.   The tiny white threads are Kellen’s DNA, which she pours into a tiny bottle that becomes a pendant for a necklace. 

She says she’ll wear her DNA all the time. 

“It defines me. And it tells me who I am and where I come from,” she said.

Her teacher Andrea Conway says the outing makes the science real. 

“This helps us in the classroom because it not only gives students an opportunity to be excited about what we’re learning, but it helps us to actually make connections to different things that we learned about before in terms of human life, plants and animals,” she said.

Seven-and-a-half million people visit the National Museum of Natural History each year. They will have a chance to unlock life’s code for themselves through September.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid