The Department of Twin Research presented their work at the Science Museum’s Late Bio-Revolution-themed event on Wednesday 26th February. These events take place every month and attract huge crowds drawn by the opportunity to engage in different science programmes in a fun and enlightening way. Please carry on reading if you want to find out more about the event.
A record-breaking 6,900 members of the public people came to the event on the 26th February to meet scientists from the Crick’s partner organizations, including King’s College London. Not only did we present our twin research at this event, but members of the public also had the chance to photograph developing zebra fish on a smartphone, create a DNA cocktail and knot a blood vessel.
The DTR was delighted to have been chosen to present at the Science Museum ‘Late’ event as there was a lot of competition for this prestigious opportunity. We wanted to find the best way to explain how valuable twins are to medical and scientific research. Through clinical and behavioural information that we collect during clinical visits and questionnaires, we have been able to discover the genetic and environmental influences on a wide range of common traits such as osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and asthma as well as traits such as personality, pain and sexual dysfunction.
At the ‘Late’ event, we wanted the public to experience in just a few minutes what it is like to be a twin taking part in our research and how just a few simple tests can give us a wealth of information. We presented four different tests which teach us about four different physical / mental functions. These tests are designed to investigate how and why we perceive pain (using a cold pain test – a hand is placed in ice for as long as the volunteer can bear it), as well as measuring frailty (through a grip strength test) and cognition (through a puzzle competition) which are predictors of ageing. We also explored different levels of communication.
Hundreds of people took part in the tests, and talked to our scientists about our work and its impact on scientific knowledge. The public especially enjoyed taking part in the cold pain challenge – perhaps fuelled by their extra tolerance due to their alcohol intake – queuing for up to half a hour to take part. A large number of twins who came to the event joined our registry after realising the benefits to contributing to research. For us it was also a wonderful and rare opportunity to engage and inspire members of the public about the importance of our research. We really appreciated the support of the Crick and Science Museum team who provided us with a wonderful space and help in the run up to the event and on the day itself.
In addition to giving the public the chance to take part in the tests, we also presented a photographic exhibition of members of TwinsUK taken at the 2013 twin party by Iringo Demeter. The photos capture beautifully the joys of twinship and the special bond between twins. Prof Spector also had the rare opportunity to interview Ann Jeremiah and Judy Tabbott, members of TwinsUK, who took part in the Minnesota Study of the personalities and life choices of identical twins ‘Reared Apart’.
A special thank you to the twins who came and helped on the night, chatting with the public about the importance of research and their twinship and encouraging them to take part in the tests, to Dan and Scott Shilum of VisualMedia www.vismedia.co.uk for videoing and photographing the event, and to the staff at the Department of Twin Research for making the research so much fun.
By Juliette Harris & Victoria Vazquez (TwinsUK)