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of the things that's so special about Leena is she is absolutely
fearless," says Dr. Edward McCabe, chair of pediatrics. "She's
willing to move into new areas; she is confident that she can do
timing of Peltonen's arrival couldn't be more favorable. Since 1990,
an extraordinary federal research effort has been under way to map
and characterize each of the 100,000 genes in the human genome -
the set of coded instructions contained in our DNA that determines
everything about us as individuals. Called the Human Genome Project,
this scientific quest is of such far-reaching significance that
it has been dubbed "the moon shot of biology." Scientists
have already identified most of the genes through painstaking studies
of the 46 pairs of chromosomes nestled in every human cell, but
the function of many genes remains elusive.
these gene hunters, an ultimate goal is to identify the gene or
genes linked to certain diseases. Once they've done that, they should
be able to understand the molecular basis for disease - what happens
when the genetic instructions go haywire - and then provide much
better diagnosis and treatment. It perhaps goes without saying that
whoever unlocks these secrets will make history.
genome project has really developed the genetic tools that researchers
can now use to tackle these genetic diseases or genetic predisposition
to common disease," says Peltonen. "I don't think it's
a hyperbolic expression to say that genetics will transform the
way medicine is practiced in the future."
influence after just seven months at UCLA is apparent, and not just
in the work being done in the porcelean and stainless steel laboratories.
One morning in January Peltonen gave a tour of the Gonda Center,
skipping down the stairs in her low-heeled pumps, and enthusiastically
showing off three oil canvases that had been commissioned from a
well-known Finnish painter.
are hard to miss, positioned in a hallway in the same location on
three separate floors. Each is about six feet high and four feet
across. Abstract in style, they feel as though they are moving and
expanding along the wall, like clouds drifting across the sky. The
one on Peltonen's floor, titled Cloaked in the Cobalt of the Night,
has a backgroundof deep-blue circular shapes with gray spirals intended
to resemble cells and DNA.
other aesthetic efforts, she was less successful. On a brisk walk
through the bright, airy hallways, Peltonen points out long, comfortable
window benches occupying a corner of each floor, designed to provide
a communal space for researchers to talk and share ideas. Peltonen
wanted all the benches upholstered in a snazzy, zebra-print fabric
created by a Finnish architect. She got her wish only on the sixth
floor, where her office is located. "So dull!" she pronounces
with a playful smile as she passes the muted gray-blue upholstered
seating on the fifth floor.