People-powered DNA research
June 2017: As part of the MRC Festival of Medical Research, the MRC IGMM teamed up with Leith Labs to organise a day of hands-on activities.
As part of the MRC Festival of Medical Research, the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine teamed up with Leith Labs to organise a day of hands-on activities at Ocean Terminal, one of Europe’s largest shopping and leisure centres. On the hottest day of the Scottish Summer, our team of 17 volunteers lured in unsuspecting shoppers and engaged them with the DNA research happening at our Institute, through colourful hands-on activities and thought-provoking conversation.
We illustrated the relationship between us and our genetic code by helping visitors make personalised bracelets based on the DNA code that gave rise to their natural hair colour. Many children, as well as adults, left our stand with wrists adorned with colourful As, Tc, Cs and Gs.
We also encouraged our visitors to become doctors for a day. Embracing the power of biobanks, they were able to tell apart conditions that had similar symptoms but were caused by different genetic typos. Their hard work showed them the benefit of personalised medicine, as they could identify the ideal treatment for each patient.
Those less keen on hands-on activities also had an opportunity to engage with our research, as we presented posters themed around biobank research, and rare disease and complex trait genetics. Most of our visitors were keen on the idea of participating in biobanks in the future, for reasons that ranged from benefitting science to finding out more about themselves.
This venue provided us with an opportunity to bring out science to the people, engaging with audiences that have never attended a public engagement or science-themed event before. We were delighted that we were able to engage with lots of different people from a wide socio-economic demographic, all ethnic groups and all ages, as well as UK and international tourists visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia. We would also like to thank our volunteers for offering their time and enthusiasm, as we could not have done this event without them!