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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.