Peering into World of Genetic Research

Article excerpt

Byline: Joseph Szadkowski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Genetics has come a long way from Gregor Mendel's groundbreaking experiments with pea plants in the 1800s to the discovery by James Watson and Francis Crick of the double helix structure of the deoxyribonucleic acid molecule in 1953.

The ability to successfully analyze the very core of the protein building blocks that make up all living things has created a world of science-fiction-like possibilities in medical research. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health created an exhibit in its Clinical Center to examine this topic. The information has been updated and moved into cyberspace.

'A Revolution in Progress'

Site address: http://history.nih.gov/exhibits/ genetics/

Creator: The Stetten Museum of Medical Research in the Office of NIH History at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda maintains the site.

Creator quotable: "We created this site to inform the public - including children - about the profound implications of genetics research. The exhibit looks specifically at how this research will help in the prevention and treatment of disease. This research will affect everyone's life, and we must struggle individually and as a nation with the ethical questions regarding testing, medical insurance and job discrimination, and gene therapy and eugenics," says Victoria Harden, director of the Office of NIH History.

Word from the Webwise: This virtual textbook uses the backdrop of a DNA strand, eye-popping purple text links and a colorful molecular illustration to whisk viewers quickly into the world of genetics using seven chapters as a guide. These chapters include Genetic Basics: What Are Genes and What Do They Do?; Diagnosing and Treating Genetic Diseases; Genes and Drugs, Vaccines, and Enzyme Replacement Therapy; and The Human Genome Project.

Each chapter takes a text-based approach to the fairly complicated subject matter and reinforces concepts with photographs, illustrations and definition boxes that pop up when a reader passes the cursor over a selection of highlighted words.

For example, while looking through the chapter on gene therapy, I learned how scientists deliver corrected genes to affected cells using a virus, liposomes or a micropipette. …