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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 developments, 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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Science Highlights

CRISPR system Recognition for CRISPR Gene-Editing Tool
The CRISPR gene-editing tool was recognized by Science magazine as its "breakthrough of the year." Here's an illustrated explanation of how it works.

Planarian.  Credit: Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, Stowers Institute for Medical Research. Interview With a Worm: We're Not So Different
The planarian has the astounding ability to regrow its head, tail or nearly any other body part. But helping scientists find ways to encourage regeneration in humans may be its most impressive feat yet.

Fibroblast. Credit: Praveen Suraneni and Rong Li, Stowers Institute for Medical Research A Halloween-Inspired Cell Collection
We turned up some spectral images that highlight some spooky-sounding-but really important-biological topics that researchers are actively investigating to spur advances in medicine.

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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.

Blood sample on a slideMalaria: 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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Master clock in mouse brain with the nuclei of the clock cells shown in blue and the VIP molecule shown in green. Credit: Cristina Mazuski in the lab of Erik Herzog, Washington University in St. Louis.Cool Image: Tick Tock, Master Clock
A small molecule called VIP, shown in green, enables time-keeping neurons in the brain's central clock to coordinate daily rhythms that influence sleep patterns, hormone levels, body temperature and appetite.

Wound healing in process. Credit: Yaron Fuchs and Samara Brown in the lab of Hermann Steller, Rockefeller University.Healing Wounds, Growing Hair
All the hair you can see on your body is non-living, made up of "dead" cells and protein, and it sprouts from living cells in the skin called hair follicle stem cells (red and orange).

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.

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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 December 17, 2015