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National Library of Medicine (NLM)

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Robert Mehnert
or Kathy Cravedi
NLM public information
(301) 496-6308

Genetics Home Reference
Makes Genes, Chromosomes, DNA Easily Understood

Bethesda, Maryland — When you hear "gene map," do you think it's a guide to finding the nearest Gap store? Are you the kind of person who thinks that "genetic markers" are sold at office supply stores?

Now, thanks to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) you can find answers to your genetic questions. With the click of a mouse you can go the NLM's newest consumer web site, "Genetics Home Reference," at http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov. Genetics Home Reference joins Medlineplus.gov (the consumer site for general medical information) and Clinicaltrials.gov (the site that lists clinical research trials) in the lexicon of NLM's consumer medical web sites.

"The American public is increasingly turning to the Web for medical information," said Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., director of the National Library of Medicine. "The launch of Genetics Home Reference was a logical step in making genetics and its relationship to disease more understandable to the general public," said Lindberg.

"Knowledge about genetics is vital for a true understanding of many diseases," says Alexa T. McCray, Ph.D., director of NLM's Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, the organization responsible for creating this innovative website. "Often, individuals need to make life-altering decisions because of their genetic background. We hope that Genetics Home Reference can help guide them as they make their medical choices."

The target audience is the general public, and the language is written at the high school level — for those who remember "a little from their high school biology course." A quick refresher course is available by clicking the "help me understand genetics page" which talks about, for example, how genes can be turned on and off in cells, what it means if a disorder seems to run in a family, and the principles of gene mutation. Explanations are written in simple and understandable English.

If you have questions about a specific disease you browse either by disease/condition or by gene. If you type in Alzheimer's disease, for instance, a page appears where the information is written in a question and answer format. You'll find out how people inherit Alzheimer's, the symptoms, and what treatments are available. There's also a geographic listing of genetic counselors and information for care-givers. In addition, you can easily find details on the specific genes related to Alzheimer's.

Other features are a glossary of genetic terms, links that take you to clinical trials related to the disorder you're searching, and more advanced genetic information. Genetics Home Reference will be adding genetic diseases on a regular basis and the information will be updated as needed.

The National Library of Medicine is a part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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