Lisa Thompson is the museum’s exhibit developer. She says it’s the melding of a Smithsonian Museum traveling exhibit created by various health institutes, her museum staff and genetics researchers from University of Utah Health Sciences.
“If you’re a little bit nervous about your knowledge of DNA and genomics and you didn’t ever really quite understand DNA, this exhibit provides a beautiful introduction,” says Thompson.
Lisa Canon-Albright is a longtime researcher and professor of genetic epidemiology at the “U”. She says researchers found an ideal home in Utah for this type of study because of Mormon interest in genealogy and good record-keeping.
“So if you link a genealogy and cancer data, suddenly you are going to be a powerhouse of cancer genetics and we are and we have been since the ‘70s,” Canon-Albright says.
Emily Scalley’s family has been devastated by a genetic predisposition to a cancer called Lynch Syndrome. Testing has shown that she has the trait.
“The way it was explained to me, it was like going to the biggest library in the world and they’re looking for one book, one chapter, one paragraph, one word that is misspelled," says Scalley. "And luckily my grandmother did testing years ago and so they know now where they’re looking for those markers.”
Scalley says they’ve been able to make a bad situation better by staying ahead of the game with more intensive screening and the eventual testing of her children.
The Natural History Museum of Utah hosts “Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code” until September 5th as part of the regular admission price. All University of Utah faculty, staff and students have free admission to NHMU.