Genetic Engineering - Cloning, DNA, Stem Cells Pros and Cons
Molecular genetics


The future technology

Glossary

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Familial adenomatous polyposis:

an inherited condition in which hundreds of potentially cancerous polyps develop in the colon and rectum.

Familial cancer:

cancer, or a predisposition toward cancer, that runs in families.

Gene:

a unit of inheritance; a working subunit of DNA. Each of the body's 50,000 to 100,000 genes contains the code for a specific product, typically, a protein such as an enzyme.

Gene deletion:

the total loss or absence of a gene.

Gene expression:

the process by which a gene's coded information is translated into the structures present and operating in the cell (either proteins or RNAs).

Gene markers:

landmarks for a target gene, either detectable traits that are inherited along with the gene, or distinctive segments of DNA.

Gene mapping:

determining the relative positions of genes on a chromosome and the distance between them.

Gene testing:

examining a sample of blood or other body fluid or tissue for biochemical, chromosomal, or genetic markers that indicate the presence or absence of genetic disease.

Gene therapy:

treating disease by replacing, manipulating, or supplementing nonfunctional genes.

Genetic linkage maps:

DNA maps that assign relative chromosomal locations to genetic landmarks?ither genes for known traits or distinctive sequences of DNA - on the basis of how frequently they are inherited together. (See Physical maps.)

Genetics:

the scientific study of heredity: how particular qualities or traits are transmitted from parents to offspring.

Genome:

all the genetic material in the chromosomes of a particular organism.

Genome maps:

charts that indicate the ordered arrangement of the genes or other DNA markers within the chromosomes.

Genotype:

the actual genes carried by an individual (as distinct from phenotype?hat is, the physical characteristics into which genes are translated).

Germ cells:

the reproductive cells of the body, either egg or sperm cells.

Germline mutation:

(See Hereditary mutation.)

Hereditary mutation:

a gene change in the body's reproductive cells (egg or sperm) that becomes incorporated in the DNA of every cell in the body; also called germline mutation. (See Acquired mutations.)

Human genome:

the full collection of genes needed to produce a human being.

Human Genome Project:

an international research effort (led in the United States by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy) aimed at identifying and ordering every base in the human genome.

Huntington's disease:

an adult-onset disease characterized by progressive mental and physical deterioration; it is caused by an inherited dominant gene mutation.

Imprinting:

a biochemical phenomenon that determines, for certain genes, which one of the pair of alleles, the mother's or the father's, will be active in that individual.

Inborn errors of metabolism:

inherited diseases resulting from alterations in genes that code for enzymes.

Leukemia:

cancer that begins in developing blood cells in the bone marrow.

Li-Fraumeni syndrome:

a family predisposition to multiple cancers, caused by a mutation in the p53 tumor-suppressor gene.

Linkage analysis:

a gene-hunting technique that traces patterns of heredity in large, high-risk families, in an attempt to locate a disease-causing gene mutation by identifying traits that are co-inherited with it.

Melanoma:

a cancer that begins in skin cells called melanocytes and spreads to internal organs.

Molecule:

a group of atoms arranged to interact in a particular way; one molecule of any substance is the smallest physical unit of that particular substance.

Mutation:

a change in the number, arrangement, or molecular sequence of a gene.

Newborn screening:

examining blood samples from a newborn infant to detect disease-related abnormalities or deficiencies in gene products.

Nucleotide:

A subunit of DNA or RNA, consisting of one chemical base plus a phosphate molecule and a sugar molecule.

Nucleus:

the cell structure that houses the chromosomes.

Oncogenes:

genes that normally play a role in the growth of cells but, when overexpressed or mutated, can foster the growth of cancer.

p53:

(See Tumor-suppressor genes.)

Penetrance:

a term indicating the likelihood that a given gene will actually result in disease.

Phenylketonuria (PKU):

an inborn error of metabolism caused by the lack of an enzyme, resulting in abnormally high levels of the amino acid phenylalanine; untreated, PKU can lead to severe, progressive mental retardation.

Physical maps:

DNA maps showing the location of identifiable landmarks, either genes or distinctive short sequences of DNA. The lowest resolution physical map shows the banding pattern on the 24 different chromosomes; the highest resolution map depicts the complete nucleotide sequence of the chromosomes. (See Contig maps.)

Precancerous polyps:

growths in the colon that often become cancerous.

Predictive gene tests:

tests to identify gene abnormalities that may make a person susceptible to certain diseases or disorders.

Prenatal diagnosis:

examining fetal cells taken from the amniotic fluid, the primitive placenta (chorion), or the umbilical cord for biochemical, chromosomal, or gene alterations.

Probe:

a specific sequence of single-stranded DNA, typically labeled with a radioactive atom, which is designed to bind to, and thereby single out, a particular segment of DNA.

Proofreader genes:

(See DNA repair genes.)

Prophylactic surgery:

surgery to remove tissue that is in danger of becoming cancerous, before cancer has the chance to develop. Surgery to remove the breasts of women at high risk of developing breast cancer is known as prophylactic mastectomy.

Protein:

a large, complex molecule composed of amino acids. The sequence of the amino acids?nd thus the function of the protein?s determined by the sequence of the base pairs in the gene that encodes it. Proteins are essential to the structure, function, and regulation of the body. Examples are hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.

Protein product:

the protein molecule assembled under the direction of a gene.

Recessive allele:

a gene that is expressed only when its counterpart allele on the matching chromosome is also recessive (not dominant). Autosomal recessive disorders develop in persons who receive two copies of the mutant gene, one from each parent who is a carrier. (See Dominant allele.)

Recombination:

(See Crossing over.)

Renal cell cancer:

a type of kidney cancer.

Reproductive cells:

egg and sperm cells. Each mature reproductive cell carries a single set of 23 chromosomes.

Restriction enzymes:

enzymes that can cut strands of DNA at specific base sequences.

Retinoblastoma:

an eye cancer caused by the loss of a pair of tumor-suppressor genes; the inherited form typically appears in childhood, since one gene is missing from the time of birth.

RNA:

a chemical similar to DNA. The several classes of RNA molecules play important roles in protein synthesis and other cell activities.

Sarcoma:

a type of cancer that starts in bone or muscle.

Screening:

looking for evidence of a particular disease such as cancer in persons with no symptoms of disease.

Sex chromosomes:

the chromosomes that determine the sex of an organism. Human females have two X chromosomes; males have one X and one Y.

Sickle-cell anemia:

an inherited, potentially lethal disease in which a defect in hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment in the blood, causes distortion (sickling) and loss of red blood cells, producing damage to organs throughout the body.

Somatic cells:

all body cells except the reproductive cells.

Somatic mutations:

(See Acquired mutations.)

Tay-Sachs disease:

an inherited disease of infancy characterized by profound mental retardation and early death; it is caused by a recessive gene mutation.

Transcription:

the process of copying information from DNA into new strands of messenger RNA (mRNA). The mRNA then carries this information to the cytoplasm, where it serves as the blueprint for the manufacture of a specific protein.

Translation:

the process of turning instructions from mRNA, base by base, into chains of amino acids that then fold into proteins. This process takes place in the cytoplasm, on structures called ribosomes.

Tumor-suppressor genes:

genes that normally restrain cell growth but, when missing or inactivated by mutation, allow cells to grow uncontrolled.

Wilms' tumor:

a kidney cancer (tumor) that occurs in children, usually before age 5.

X chromosome:

a sex chromosome; normal females carry two X chromosomes.

Y chromosome:

a sex chromosome; normal males carry one Y and one X chromosome.

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