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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.

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

ZebrafishUsing 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

The Skull's Petrous Bone and the Rise of Ancient Human DNA: Q & A with Genetic Archaeologist David Reich
Genetic archaeologist David Reich discusses how a tiny bone in the skull (along with new genomic sequencing technology) is significantly expanding our knowledge of our ancient past.

Computational Geneticist Discusses Genetics of Storytelling at Sundance Film Festival
Geneticist Mark Yandell, who develops software to identify rare disease-causing genes, discusses film’s ability to convey the power of science and medicine.

zebrafish5Zebrafish Scrapbook
A zebrafish shares its family scrapbook to illustrate why it makes an ideal research organism to study embryo development, genetics, cancer progression, and regeneration.

SKambucha"Selfish" Gene Enhances Own Transmission at Expense of Organism's Fertility
Researchers recently identified a new "selfish" gene, wtf4, that encodes a toxin and an antitoxin in an effort to ensure the gene's own transmission by killing off reproductive cells lacking the gene.

Flipping the Switch on Controlling Disease-Carrying Insects
In an effort to curb Zika outbreaks, authorities in Florida and Brazil recently released thousands of mosquitoes infected with a bacterium called Wolbachia. Find out how Wolbachia neutralizes mosquitoes.

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Profiles: Meet a Scientist

Blake WiedenheftFinding Adventure: Blake Wiedenheft’s Path to Gene Editing
Learn how this scientist found his way to one of the hottest areas of biology.

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.

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Audio and Video

Jeramiah SmithInterview with a Scientist: Jeramiah Smith on the Genomic Antics of an Ancient Vertebrate
In a video interview, genomicist Jeramiah Smith describes the sea lamprey's innovative strategy for avoiding cancer: shedding 20 percent of its genome following development.

Joel KraljInterview With a Scientist: Joel Kralj, Electromicist
In this video interview, Joel Kralj discusses his plan for studying how every protein coded by the genome affects voltage inside of a neuron.

Dr. Dan JanesOn this Darwin Day, Evolutionary Geneticist Dr. Dan Janes Discusses the Scientific Contributions of Charles Darwin
Dr. Dan Janes answers questions about Charles Darwin and the role of evolution in health and biomedicine.

Dr. Janet IwasaInterview With a Scientist: Janet Iwasa, Molecular Animator
In this video interview, Janet Iwasa discusses the process of creating detailed animations that convey the latest thinking of how biological molecules interact.

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.

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Neurons stained with different colors to denote different qualities about them. Cool Image: A Circadian Circuit
This image shows how time-of-day information flows through the brain of a fruit fly, an organism used to study biological clocks and circadian rhythms.

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).

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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, 2018