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Traveling Revolution

Exhibition brings advances in genome science to Brazil

instituto sangariFrom biodiversity to the the cell nucleus: DNA is everywhereinstituto sangari

Imagine that you are strolling through the Mata Atlântica rainforest in the midst of its diversity of plants and animals. Then, imagine that you are diving into an organism, going beyond the microscopic particles, entering a cell and investigating all its parts until you find the genetic material packaged inside the nucleus. This journey will have a specific address as of February 26: the Genome Revolution exhibition, which will be open to the public until July 13 at the Pavilhão Armando de Arruda Pereira building (formerly Prodam’s head office) in São Paulo’s Ibirapuera Park.

“The exhibition goes from macro aspects, biodiversity, to the nucleus of a cell, to show that everything has DNA,” says Bianca Rinzler, executive director of Instituto Sangari, which represents New York’s Natural History Museum in Brazil. This museum is the source of internationally renowned scientific exhibitions. Last year, Instituto Sangari brought the Darwin exhibition to Brazil, which was shown at São Paulo’s Masp Museum of Art and is now being shown at Rio de Janeiro’s National Historical Museum. Sangari is now getting ready to organize the Brazilian version of one more U.S. exhibition.

The Genome Revolution that will be installed in Ibirapuera is an expanded version of the exhibition that traveled around the world. “The entrance and the exit are different,” says journalist Mônica Teixeira, one of the curators. The entrance – entirely created in Brazil – is through a forest, a scenario that includes photographs, stuffed animals and live animals too. The visitors are then directed to a giant cell. Eliana Dessen, a geneticist from the University of São Paulo and co-curator of the exhibition, explains: “the American version goes directly to the DNA, but we felt it was important to take the visitor to the place where genetic material is found.”

The exhibition ends with another first-time module, which tells success stories concerning Brazilian agriculture. The visitor will see the advent of agriculture all the way to the development of transgenic plants which today, although they have given rise to a lot of controversy, are the hope of food production. The visitor will also see accomplishments such as the genetic improvement of sugarcane , coffee and soy beans. These improvements have had a huge impact on the increase of productivity. In addition, the visitor will get information on the sequencing of the genetic material of the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria, which devastates orchards. This sequencing, concluded in 2000, has placed Brazilian geneticists at the forefront of the field of genome sciences.

In the central part of the exhibition, created in the United States, the visitor will become acquainted with genetics. The story starts with how DNA was discovered and ends with state-of-the-art research in this field. This part will show how genome science has become a revolution that is the core of modern life: a deeper knowledge of the similarities among live beings, genetic tests and new ways of fighting diseases.

This international segment was also adapted. “We replaced the examples that bore no relation to Brazil,” says Eliana. A panel will use data provided by geneticist Sérgio Pena (see Pesquisa FAPESP No. 134) to explain the origins of the Brazilian population. Other geneticists will show studies conducted at four Cepid research centers in São Paulo: the Antonio Prudente Cancer Research and Treatment Center, the Structural Molecular Biotechnology center, the Cell Therapy Center and the Human Genome Studies Center. The latter has the facilities for genetic disease testing, which is complemented by the research studies conducted at the Gene Therapy Center. These are centers of excellence in terms of scientific research and have helped achieve the objective of the exhibition: from basic concepts of genetics to applications that have a major impact on human lives.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to take part in other activities. A partnership between Instituto Sangari and Pesquisa FAPESP has resulted in lectures and debates with foreign and Brazilian researchers that are currently working on cutting-edge research into genomics and other key areas of knowledge. Films on scientific topics are also part of this cultural program.

Eliana highlights the educational value of the exhibition. “We trained the monitors and we have prepared lectures and materials in Portuguese, so that middle school teachers can prepare themselves before taking their students on a tour of the exhibition.” Like the Darwin exhibition, the Genome Revolution will be taken to other cities in Brazil. Approximately half a million people are expected to see the exhibition in São Paulo alone. Bianca states that Instituto Sangari will have accomplished its mission: “to bring scientific knowledge to as many people as possible.”