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Abbreviation for the four steps in a medicine's journey through the body:
absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion.
Agonist A molecule
that triggers a cellular response by interacting with a receptor.
Analgesic A medicine's
ability to relieve pain, or a drug that alleviates pain; the term comes
from the Greek word algos, which means pain.
Antagonist A molecule
that prevents the action of other molecules, often by competing for a cellular
receptor; opposite of agonist.
Antibiotic A substance
that can kill or inhibit the growth of certain microorganisms.
Antibody A protein
of the immune system, produced in response to an antigen (a foreign, often
A drug's ability to reduce inflammation, which can cause soreness and swelling.
the term comes from the Greek word pyresis, which means fire.
A molecule that synthesizes regulatory molecules such as prostaglandins;
it is found in fatty animal tissue and foods such as egg yolk and liver.
One-celled organism without a nucleus that reproduces by cell division;
can infect humans, plants, or animals.
The ability of a drug or other chemical to be taken up by the body and made
available in the tissue where it is needed.
A field of research that relies on computers to store and analyze large
amounts of biological data.
The industrial use of living organisms or biological methods derived through
The conversion of a substance from one form to another by the actions of
organisms or enzymes.
A blockade consisting of cells and small blood vessels that limits the movement
of substances from the bloodstream into the brain.
Any substance that, when exposed to living tissue, may cause cancer.
Cell The basic subunit
of any living organism; the simplest unit that can exist as an independent
system The brain and spinal cord.
Physical force holding atoms together to form a molecule.
A research approach resembling genetics in which scientists custom-produce
synthetic, protein-binding small molecules to explore biology.
lipid unique to animal cells that is used in the construction of cell membranes
and as a building block for some hormones.
Chromosome A structure
in the cell nucleus that contains hereditary material (genes); humans have
23 pairs of chromosomes in each body cell, one of each pair from the mother
and the other from the father.
A scientific study to determine the effects of potential medicines in people;
usually conducted in three phases (I, II, III), to determine whether the
drug is safe, effective, and better than current therapies, respectively.
genetics A research process in which scientists remove the genetic
instructions for entire metabolic pathways from certain microorganisms,
alter the instructions, and then put them back.
An enzyme, also known as COX, that makes prostaglandins from a molecule
called arachidonic acid; the molecular target of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
A family of enzymes found in animals, plants, and bacteria that have an
important role in drug metabolism.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
A double-stranded molecule that encodes genetic information.
Dose The amount of medicine
to be taken at one time.
A graph drawn to show the relationship between the dose of a drug or other
chemical and the effect it produces.
Enzyme A molecule (usually
a protein) that speeds up, or catalyzes, a chemical reaction without being
permanently altered or consumed.
acid A long, fat-containing molecule involved in human body processes
that is synthesized by plants but not by the human body and is therefore
a dietary requirement.
The breakdown of orally administered drugs in the liver and intestines.
G protein One of a
group of switch proteins involved in a signaling system that passes incoming
messages across cell membranes and within cells.
Gene A unit of heredity;
a segment of a DNA molecule containing the code for making a protein or,
sometimes, an RNA molecule.
Genetics The scientific
study of genes and heredity, of how particular qualities or traits are transmitted
from parents to offspring.
Genomics The study
of all of an organism's genetic material.
Hormone A messenger
molecule that helps coordinate the actions of various tissues; made in one
part of the body and transported, via the bloodstream, to tissues and organs
elsewhere in the body.
A medical treatment to stimulate a patient's immune system to attack and
destroy disease-causing cells.
body's characteristic reaction to infection or injury, resulting in redness,
swelling, heat, and pain.
The agreement of a person (or his or her legally authorized representative)
to serve as a research subject, with full knowledge of all anticipated risks
and benefits of the experiment.
Kinase An enzyme that
adds phosphate groups to proteins.
Lipid A fatty, waxy,
or oily molecule that will not dissolve in water; it contains hydrogen,
carbon, and oxygen.
Liposome Oily, microscopic
capsules designed to package and deliver biological cargo, such as drugs,
to cells in the body.
Membrane A thin covering
surrounding a cell and separating it from the environment; consists of a
double layer of molecules called phospholipids and has proteins embedded
Metabolism All enzyme-catalyzed
reactions in a living organism that builds and breaks down organic molecules,
producing or consuming energy in the process.
Metabolite A chemical
intermediate in metabolic reactions; a product of metabolism.
A bacterium, animal, or plant used by scientists to study basic research
questions; common model organisms include yeast, flies, worms, frogs, and
An antibody that recognizes only one type of antigen; sometimes used as
immunotherapy to treat diseases such as cancer.
NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drug) Any of a class of drugs that reduces pain, fever, or inflammation
by interfering with the synthesis of prostaglandins.
A chemical messenger that allows neurons (nerve cells) to communicate with
each other and with other cells.
Nucleus The membrane-bound
structure within a cell that contains most of the cell's genetic material.
Organelle A specialized,
membrane-bound structure that has a defined cellular function; for example,
Peptide A small protein
The study of how drugs act at target sites of action in the body.
The study of how people's genes affect their response to medicines.
The study of how the body absorbs, distributes, breaks down, and eliminates
A scientist focusing on pharmacology.
study of how drugs interact with living systems.
Pharmacy An area in
the health sciences that deals with the preparation, dispensing, and appropriate
use of medicines.
Physiology The study
of how living organisms function.
Any of a class of hormone-like, fat-soluble, regulatory molecules made from
fatty acids such as arachidonic acid; prostaglandins participate in diverse
body functions, and their production is blocked by NSAIDs.
Protein A large molecule
composed of one or more chains of amino acids (the building blocks of proteins)
in a specific order and a folded shape determined by the sequence of nucleotides
in the gene encoding the protein; essential for all life processes.
Proteomics The systematic,
large-scale study of all proteins in an organism.
Receptor A specialized
molecule that receives information from the environment and conveys it to
other parts of the cell; the information is transmitted by a specific chemical
that must fit the receptor, like a key in a lock.
DNA technology Modern techniques in molecular biology to manipulate
an organism's genes by introducing, eliminating, or changing genes.
RNA (ribonucleic acid)
A molecule that serves as an intermediate step in the synthesis of proteins
from instructions coded in DNA; some RNA molecules also perform regulatory
functions in cells and viruses.
Sepsis A clinical condition
in which infectious agents (bacteria, fungi) or products of infection (bacterial
toxins) enter the blood and profoundly affect body systems.
Side effect The
effect of a drug, other than the desired effect, sometimes in an organ other
than the target organ.
The process by which a hormone or growth factor outside the cell transmits
a message into the cell.
Site of action
The place in the body where a drug exerts its effects.
Steroid A type of molecule
that has a multiple ring structure, with the rings sharing molecules of
A field of study dedicated to determining the three-dimensional structures
of biological molecules to better understand the function of these molecules.
A drug used to treat a disease or condition; contrast with drug of abuse.
Toxicology The study
of how poisonous substances interact with living organisms.
Virus An infectious agent
composed of a protein coat around a DNA or RNA core; to reproduce, viruses
depend on living cells.
A technique used to determine the detailed, three-dimensional structure
of molecules based on the scattering of X rays through a crystal of the