You III  by Colin Rose. Photographed at the Wellcome Genome Campus, 2017.

You III by Colin Rose. Photographed at the Wellcome Genome Campus, 2017.

Genetopia

In 2017, I started to interview, photograph, and work with 23 individuals to curate the story of their experience with DNA testing. It was the year that the number of people who had done consumer DNA testing doubled.

Since the project began, the story of genetics has had a tumultuous journey. Genetic testing has been used to store GIFs, identify remains, solve crimes, reunite families, break families apart. An attempt was made in Kuwait to create a nationwide DNA database. The scientific papers flow thick and fast with debate and disproof.

But underneath the headlines is a very human story, the story of people who wanted to find something out, for reasons of health, ancestry, curiosity, scientific enquiry, and how that knowledge affected their perceptions and experiences of their own identity. This is the story that Genetopia tells.

Genetopia was made in collaboration with the Antonella Riccio Laboratory MRC LMCB, UCL, and Dr. Anna Middleton, Head of Society and Ethics Research at the Wellcome Genome Campus.

 Genetopia at London College of Communication, 2017 MA degree show.

Genetopia at London College of Communication, 2017 MA degree show.

CDing_11112017_014.JPG
 When it isn’t dividing, a cell’s DNA genome is not packed up into the neat, X-shaped chromosomes that most people are familiar with. Instead, the genome is found in the nucleus as a chaotic, yet ordered, tangle of DNA strands – like a bowl full of ramen.  Within these strands of DNA are the DNA sequences that encode genes, and whether a given gene is active or inactive in a cell can depend on its location within the nucleus. Using DNA Fluorescence In Situ Hybridisation (DNA-FISH) we can visualise the location of genes within the nucleus and learn about how that gene’s activity is being controlled.  In our DNA-FISH images the whole nucleus’s DNA contents are stained with a general DNA dye, shown in blue, and the two fluorescent dots from the DNA-FISH technique appear in green. Some cells also have a fluorescent green colour in their cytoplasm surrounding the nucleus. This is because we have caused the cells to produce a protein called Green Fluorescent Protein, and this fluorescence helps us see the overall shape of the cell within the bounds of its membrane."  Text: Sarah French, UCL PhD candidate  Sculpture: Chrystal Ding  DNA-FISH experiments performed and imaged by Cristina Policarpi, Antonella Riccio Laboratory at MRC LMCB, UCL

When it isn’t dividing, a cell’s DNA genome is not packed up into the neat, X-shaped chromosomes that most people are familiar with. Instead, the genome is found in the nucleus as a chaotic, yet ordered, tangle of DNA strands – like a bowl full of ramen.

Within these strands of DNA are the DNA sequences that encode genes, and whether a given gene is active or inactive in a cell can depend on its location within the nucleus. Using DNA Fluorescence In Situ Hybridisation (DNA-FISH) we can visualise the location of genes within the nucleus and learn about how that gene’s activity is being controlled.

In our DNA-FISH images the whole nucleus’s DNA contents are stained with a general DNA dye, shown in blue, and the two fluorescent dots from the DNA-FISH technique appear in green. Some cells also have a fluorescent green colour in their cytoplasm surrounding the nucleus. This is because we have caused the cells to produce a protein called Green Fluorescent Protein, and this fluorescence helps us see the overall shape of the cell within the bounds of its membrane."

Text: Sarah French, UCL PhD candidate

Sculpture: Chrystal Ding

DNA-FISH experiments performed and imaged by Cristina Policarpi, Antonella Riccio Laboratory at MRC LMCB, UCL