Uniquely Blue, Uniquely You
Posted 2/8/2011 12:02 AM by Nicole Garneau | Comments
Welcome to a world where very small changes in a persons' DNA
can have a huge impact on how they perceive taste.
This blog aims to explore this and other findings from the live
research study, Genetics of Taste: A Flavor for Health, happening
right now in the permanent exhibit Expedition Health.
Why not have a bit of fun with the Museum's vision "to create a
community of critical thinkers" and let the community take the
wheel and drive a real research project. With that, our study on
taste and health was born, and supported by a Science Education
Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Center for Research
Resources (NCRR), National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Our community is involved in three unique
1. The research questions were chosen by the public through town
hall meetings and audience surveys.
2. The study is carried out by NIH-certified volunteer
3. Guests are enrolled as subjects into our study to allow every
aspect of our community to participate in the project.
What is enrollment you ask?
We use a series of simple, but highly specific tests that are both
fun and informative:
1. The first data collections station is to collect cheek cells
from the guest using a small gentle brush (WARNING- this step kind
of tickles). Those cells are then busted open (more to come on this
process!) and the DNA is examined.
2. The next step is a taste test: will you be able to taste the
bitter compound? Some people can, some people can't and some people
taste it REALLY well!
3. The third station is the TANITA. A really fancy scale that
measures all kinds of cool information about your body- all of
which guest get to take home.
4. Finally, drum roll please…. We stain your tongue blue! Even
though this station is super fun for our guest, it's also really
important for us in Lab Central. You see, while the tongue stains
blue, the taste buds stay pink, so we can take a super close-up
scientific picture to count them.
Then we use the latest and greatest new Polaroid camera (prints
right from the camera!) to take a fun photo of our guest to take
home with them. Spoiler alert, the picture is also a sticker, how
fun is that?
So here's the main point of all this chatting: through community
participation in authentic research, the Genetics of Taste study
increases public understanding of genetic research, while also
making strides to better understand the genetic ancestry of the
gene that dictates the ability to taste bitter, Tas2r38, and its
affect on the health of modern day humans.
If you've got 30 minutes stop on by Lab Central in Expedition
Health, we are open for business and looking for participants!
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