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Science Education: Genetics

The 46 human chromosomes (blue) and the telomeres (white pinpoints). Courtesy of Hesed Padilla-Nash and Thomas Ried, National Institutes of Health.Understanding the genetic material DNA and RNA, heredity and variation—that's genetics. Studies in genetics focus on questions like:

  • What regulates the activity of genes?
  • How does a single fertilized egg develop into a complete organism with hundreds of different cell types?
  • What can we learn about ourselves by studying organisms like bacteria, yeast and fruit flies?

Follow the links below to learn more about genetics, including recent discoveries, and read profiles of researchers working in this field.


Cover image of The New GeneticsThe New Genetics
Explains the role of genes in health and disease, the basics of DNA and its molecular cousin RNA, and new directions in genetic research.

Cover image of Computing LifeComputing Genetics from Computing Life
Explores how computing advances are helping scientists uncover new details about diseases, drug treatments and even crimes.

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Classroom Poster

Living Laboratories PosterLiving Laboratories Poster
Learn about model organisms used in research.

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Fact Sheets

BrainCircadian Rhythms
Our bodies keep time with the help of 24-hour "circadian" rhythms, which are directed by genes. Get answers to common questions about how these rhythms work and affect our lives.

C. elegans RNA Interference
RNA interference is a recently discovered mechanism that silences genes. Learn how it works—and how we can harness it to treat disease and study genetic processes.

Genetic testStudying Genes
We're learning important things about health and disease by studying genes in individuals and populations.

Fruit flyUsing Model Organisms to Study Health and Disease
The mustard plant, roundworm and fruit fly have taught us a lot about ourselves. Learn more about why scientists study these and other simple organisms.

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Research News

Red blood cells. Credit: Tina Carvalho, University of Hawaii at Manoa.Evolution, Genetics and Environmental Adaptation
High-altitude natives in Ethiopia have a genetic variant that makes them less susceptible to chronic mountain sickness, and this finding could shed light on other conditions related to low blood oxygen levels.

Chemical tags (purple diamonds) attached to a DNA. Credit: NIGMS.A New Way to Detect Aging
Analyzing changes in the number and location of chemical tags attached to DNA might be a new way to estimate how fast different parts of a person's body are aging.

23 pairs of chromosomes. Credit: Hesed Padilla-Nash and Thomas Ried, National Cancer Institute.Three's a Crowd: Extra Chromosome Removed From Down Syndrome Cell Line
A new technique lets scientists remove the extra chromosome from a Down syndrome cell line, resulting in cells with the normal chromosome number.

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Zebrafish finHow Animals Offer Clues to Regeneration
Exploring the strategies that some organisms use to regrow missing cells, organs and appendages might help researchers find ways to regenerate lost or injured body parts.

Plant embryo. Short pieces of RNA in the bottom half (blue) and shoot-forming genes in top half (green). Credit: Zachary R. Smith, Salk Institute for Biological Studies.Remarkable RNAs
RNA is a versatile molecule that is involved in many essential cellular functions. Here's a quick rundown of types of RNA that scientists are discovering and learning more about.

Biological clock. Credit: Wikimedia CommonsTick Tock: New Clues About Biological Clocks and Health
Read about genes and proteins that run biological clocks and help keep daily rhythms in synch.

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Profiles: Meet a Scientist

Cara AltimusA Light on Life's Rhythms
Neuroscientist Cara Altimus studies circadian rhythms in mice to learn how the human brain regulates bodily functions.

Julie JohnsonThe Right Fit
Clinical pharmacist Julie Johnson researches how genes affect the body's response to medicines.

Gary ChurchillMountains and Mouse Genes
Biostatistician Gary Churchill studies mouse genetics to link gene combinations to traits.

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Audio and Video

Cross-section of a flatwormCool Video: Re-creating Kidneys
By studying how planarians grow back lost tissue, scientists might move one step closer to replacing diseased or injured human tissue and cells.

Malaria parasites in red blood cellsMalaria: Natural Selection and New Medicine Link to external Web site
Researchers explain the rise of drug-resistant malaria and strategize how to develop vaccines against the disease.

Genes turning on (red) or off (green) Genetic Honeycomb
This movie, which shows groups of genes turning on (red) or off (green), helps researchers visualize and interact with experimental data.

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Mouse neuron showing mitochondria (red and green) and nucleus (blue). Credit: McMurray lab.Cool Image: Antioxidant for Damaged Mitochondria
In a mouse model of Huntington's disease, a synthetic antioxidant improved mitochondrial function and suppressed symptoms of the disease.

Color-Coded ChromosomesColor-Coded Chromosomes
By mixing fluorescent dyes, scientists are able to color-code individual chromosomes. The technique allows researchers to visualize genetic abnormalities often linked to disease.

Patchwork depicts correlation between two sleep-associated genes in fruit flies. Susan Harbison and Trudy Mackay, North Carolina State UniversityGenetic Patchworks
Each point represents the correlation between two sleep-associated genes in fruit flies. Vibrant reds and oranges represent high and intermediate degrees of association between the genes, respectively.

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Quizzes and Puzzles

Supermodels of ScienceSupermodels of Science | Accessible Version

The New Genetics Crossword PuzzleThe New Genetics Crossword Puzzle | Accessible Version

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This page last reviewed on February 15, 2013