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Stetten Museum's Genetics Exhibit Opens in Bldg. 10

The DeWitt Stetten Jr., Museum of Medical Research sponsored a symposium Sept. 9 to mark the opening of its newest exhibit, "Revolution in Progress: Human Genetics and Medical Research."

Dr. Francis Collins, NHGRI director, was the featured speaker at the event, which was cosponsored by the NIH Genetics Interest Group. He gave a half-hour lecture emphasizing that genetic researchers need to concentrate on identifying genes that play a role in causing certain common diseases such as heart disease and cancer, when combined with environmental factors. New strides in technology such as DNA on a chip, which means placing DNA samples on a silicon chip so that differences can be detected and read on the computer, should help scientists in their quest to discover these genes.

Collins also said we "must deal with the ethical, social, and legal aspects of genetic testing," and that "the potential for employment and insurance discrimination must be addressed."

On hand at the ribbon-cutting for the Stetten Museum's genetics exhibit are (from l) NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIDDK scientist and museum advisory committee chair Dr. Alan Schechter, Jane Stetten, NIH historian Dr. Victoria Harden, NHGRI director Dr. Francis Collins and NHLBI scientific director Dr. Ed Korn.

The exhibit is divided into several sections, including one that explains how dominant and recessive traits work, one showing how the genetic code can go wrong, and one that discusses potential treatments for genetic diseases. The last section deals with the ethical dilemmas raised by genetic testing and asks viewers how they would respond if they were at heightened risk for certain diseases.

The exhibit also features a board game showing the highly complex path to effective gene therapy, and a cartoon strip stretched along the bottom that explains genetics to children ("a gene is a recipe for making protein").

"We felt that it was very important to include a cartoon strip geared towards children, because most of the exhibits in the Clinical Center are viewed by children and they have a natural curiosity about how the body works," said Michele Lyons, curator of the exhibit.

The exhibit is located in the CC on the balcony overlooking the Visitor Information Center. It is open 7 days a week and lighted for viewing from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The exhibit was produced by the Stetten Museum in collaboration with the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

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