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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora