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Science in Action: Genetic Analysis

In this exhibit, Broad scientists describe today’s powerful genomic technologies and how they are being used to transform genomic scienceand medicine.

The Films

Genetic analysis tools. Two crucial types of data in biomedical research today are 1) the DNA differences among people and how they influence health, and 2) which genes are turned on or off in different cells in both healthy and disease states. Stacey Gabriel explains how tools known as DNA chips allow scientists to collect these data by quickly scanning through entire genomes, giving information that will revolutionize our understanding of disease.

The Connectivity Map. Different genes get turned on (or “expressed”) in diseased cells compared to healthy ones. The same thing is true of cells that are exposed to a particular drug versus those that are not. From these core principles, Broad researchers have developed the Connectivity Map, a tool that promises to accelerate and improve the way drugs are discovered. Justin Lamb and Todd Golub explain how genetic technologies like DNA chips make this work possible.

The Technology

Gene Chip Scanner

Gene Chip Scanner. Like a window to an inner world, this machine reveals the information contained in the human genome. It accomplishes this by scanning microarrays — chips made of silica and spotted with thousands of bits of DNA. Here at the Broad Institute, scientists use these chips everyday to determine the activities of all 20,000 human genes, or, with a slightly different chip, to map nearly a million genetic differences within a person’s genome.

Hybridization Oven

Hybridization Oven. DNA microarrays or “chips” are thin wafers studded with different pieces of DNA. These fragments can correspond to DNA sequences found within a person’s genome — their likeness forms the framework for DNA microarray technology. This oven creates just the right conditions for matching pieces of DNA to find and stick to each other.

Gene Chip Washer

Gene Chip Washer. Once a person’s DNA is applied to a chip, some parts will stick and some won’t. Like a miniature car wash, this machine takes chips through a series of careful washes to clear away any DNA that’s not bound to the chip.