Genetics of Taste: A Flavor for Health – Community Lab and Education Programs

Project Website

http://www.dmns.org/science/museum-scientists/nicole-garneau/the-genetics-lab

Project Description

This project brings real scientific research into the public domain by establishing a research laboratory in a museum setting where visitors not only enroll in the study they help shape it through their work as citizen scientists. Findings from the study will increase the public understanding of how genetic research translates into meaningful personal information that can be used to better understand personal health risks and opportunities. In a community-based participatory research laboratory school-aged children and their families will participate in an authentic research project on the genetics of taste. In a series of simple but highly specific taste tests participants will learn which gene variations they possess and how these variations influence how they taste foods. Taste function has been increasingly linked to human health in that variability in taste sensation correlates with and may in part be causal for major health problems including cardiovascular disease and obesity. Interactive exhibit components will inform participants about the scientific process the principles of genetics the human genome project and genetic variation. Teaching the public about their genetic profile and its influence on taste may have a positive impact on major health threats such as cardiovascular disease and obesity. The data collected from museum visitors who choose to enroll in the study will be sent to the museum’s academic partners for further analysis and inclusion in their ongoing research analysis and publications. This laboratory experience not only engages and educates the public but also advances the research enterprise and offers a vivid model for how to translate research into the public domain.

Abstract

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) with its SEPA partners proposes a three-year Phase 1 and Phase 2 science education project: Genetics of Taste: A Flavor for Health. This innovative project has two major components: (1) a community-based participatory research laboratory with interactive exhibits and (2) accompanying on-site and off-site education programs. The primary goal of Genetics of Taste is to increase public understanding of how genetic research translates into meaningful personal information that can be used to better understand their personal health risks and opportunities. Project partners include the University of Florida’s Human Chemosensory Program at the Smell and Taste Center; the University of Colorado Health Science Center’s Rocky Mountain Taste and Smell Center; Community College of Aurora; Bridging Cultures Improving Performance; and several Denver-area public school districts. In the audience-centered community-based participatory research laboratory school-aged children and their families will participate in an authentic research project on the genetics of taste. In a series of simple but highly specific taste tests participants will learn which of the three gene variations the posses and how it influences how they taste foods. Taste function has been increasingly linked to human health in that variability in taste sensation correlates with and may in part be causal for major health problems including cardiovascular disease and obesity. Interactive exhibit components will inform participants about the scientific process the principles of genetics the human genome project and genetic variation. The data collected from Museum visitors who choose to enroll in the study will be sent to the Museum’s academic partners for further analysis and inclusion in their ongoing research analysis and publications. This laboratory experience not only educates the public but also advances the research enterprise and offers a vivid model fr how to translate research into the public domain. DMNS also will offer a suite of learning opportunities designed to reach underserved audiences and to extend the educational opportunities beyond the Museum’s walls through Town Hall Meetings special programming on Free Admission Days Teacher Institutes Web resources and Distance Learning programs. An estimated 190000 people will be served by this project. There is an undeniable link between a person’s diet and their health. Genetic variability in a person’s ability to taste correlates with their food preferences. Teaching the public about their genetic profile and its influence on taste may have a positive impact on major health threats such as cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Associated SEPA Project(s)