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Exhibition brings us to the age of genomic revolution

People are invited to give their opinions on the implications of the genomic revolution at a special exhibition running at the Hong Kong Science Museum from today (June 23) until October 22.

"The Genomic Revolution", produced by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA, comprehensively presents the most debatable and complex subjects of genomics, which are critically important to our future.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today, the Deputy Director (Culture) of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Chung Ling-hoi, said the Science Museum had been committing itself to promote science and technology, providing the public with knowledge in various science fields. The genomic science was one of the foremost important studies bringing profound impact to humans, organisms and all ecologies on earth.

"In April, 2003, scientists triumphantly finished deciphering the human genome, making a great progress to this science and leading us to the age of genomic revolution. This exhibition examines the extraordinary developments taking place in the field of genomics and explores their impact on science and our everyday lives.

"Through various exhibits, the exhibition explains basic genetics, describes the wealth of information contained in human and nonhuman genomes, and explores how the genomic revolution affects our health, the food we eat, our life spans, our privacy, our criminal justice system, and the prospects for our children and grandchildren," Mr Chung said.

Every living thing on Earth, every plant and animal, shares the most fundamental structure of life. It is called deoxyribonucleic acid (say "dee-ox-ee-rye-boh-new-CLAY-ic A-sid"), or DNA.

Scientists have known about DNA since 1871. But an unassuming scientific paper published by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953 revolutionised the notion of life itself by unveiling the DNA molecule's form: the double helix. "This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest," they wrote. Together with Maurice Wilkins, Watson and Crick went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1962 for their discovery.

In April, 2003, scientists finished deciphering the human genome, the blueprint for human life. The human genome contains 3.2 billion units of DNA code, arranged in a fixed sequence that defines the human species. Four chemical components—adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine, commonly abbreviated as A, T, G and C — make up the bases of the genetic code, the rungs of the double-helix ladder.

Humans do not appear to have much in common with mice and worms. Yet within the cells of each are genes, operating instructions made of DNA. Despite the differences among organisms, most share a surprising number of genes. Humans and one species of worm, for example, share 26% of their genes; humans and mice share 89%.

As scientists learn more about our genes, fixing genetic malfunctions is no longer science fiction. We can also apply this knowledge to feeding the world's growing population, solving forensic mysteries and saving species on the verge of extinction. One day, humans may even be cloned.

The map of our genome offers boundless potential to scientist. However, putting the genome to work raises questions and dilemmas for us. We need to have a deep thought and make decisions about our health, our food, our stewardship of the natural world and our responsibilities to the next generation.

Admission to "The Genomic Revolution" exhibition is $20 with half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. There is no free admission on Wednesdays.

The Science Museum is located at 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon. It is open from 1pm to 9pm from Monday to Friday, and from 10am to 9pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays).

For details of the exhibition and related programmes, visit the Science Museum's website at . For enquiries, please call 2732 3232.

Ends/Friday, June 23, 2006
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