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Understand the Genome and its Impact on Modern Medicine

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

When you look in the mirror, do you ever wonder how our bodies know how to make us who we are?


The answer is DNA. This is a long chain of tightly wound up coded instructions which cells unravel, read and use to make proteins.

 

A DNA chain


DNA is what all genetic information is made from, and in cells, chunks of DNA are arranged into 46 individual or 23 pairs of chromosomes.

 

 DNA is structured in a double helix swirly ladder shape, and if you zoom in further, you’ll see it’s made of lots of units called nucleotides joined together, making DNA a big molecule or a polymer.

All this genetic information is called our genome!

 

Genes

 

Another point to note is that cells look at the double helix one small chunk at a time. This is called a gene.

One gene makes one specific code, such as hair colour! However, we're blonde or brunette because there are different versions of one gene called alleles.

And just as each of us has a unique allele cocktail for our appearance, we can use these to figure out someone's specific risk of disease, meaning that understanding our genome is important in healthcare.

 

A snail on a scooter

 

But hang on, aren’t codes sometimes wrong? Of course! When there is a change in our genetic code, we call it a mutation.

Not all mutations are bad! Some can be useful, for example, if a dinosaur had bigger teeth, it made them better hunters!

 

Our DNA determines how we look and behave, making our phenotype, and you might be surprised to know that mutations rarely affect the phenotype very much, so we hardly ever see genetic changes!

 

Genetic engineering

 

Genetic technology involves changing the genes already in an organism, which causes some divided opinions in farming and medicine.

 

In farming,  manipulating plants' genomes to produce more crops of a better quality that are resistant to insects seems like the solution to world hunger, but some people have had bad reactions to these new plants, such as allergies!

 

Gene technology is heavily used in IVF to make sure  that the healthiest babies are the ones that are picked to develop, and in genetic testing, a human's alleles are checked to see their risk of getting certain diseases.

The benefit is that fewer diseases will be passed on, but is this playing God? Embryo research is highly controversial, and some people worry that IVF will be used to plan designer babies’.

 

 Now have a go at answering some questions about the genome and its impact on medicine!

Consider the size of different genetic structures.

 

Match the structures to their relative sizes, with  number 1 being for the biggest.

Column A

Column B

1
Gene
2
Double helix
3
Genome
4
Nucleotide
5
Chromosome

Match the term with its definition.

Column A

Column B

Genome
The structure of DNA
Double helix
A small piece of the double helix of DNA
Gene
A large section of DNA
Chromosome
All of a human's DNA

DNA is made up of lots of small nucleotide subunits.

 

Complete the sentence below.

 

Column A

Column B

Genome
The structure of DNA
Double helix
A small piece of the double helix of DNA
Gene
A large section of DNA
Chromosome
All of a human's DNA

Is it true or false that a mutation is a natural change to DNA that alters how we look?

True or false

What is our phenotype?

The alleles we get from our parents

How our genetics have made us look

Our susceptibility to disease

How we look based on genetics, but also from the way we live our lives, for example , having bigger muscles

Gene technology is heavily used in agriculture. 

 

Match the scenarios below regarding the use of GM crops. 

What is an example of genetic technology in healthcare?

IVF treatment

Check for the likelihood of being a carrier of cystic fibrosis

Check for the possibility of becoming diabetic

Test for the likelihood of catching salmonella

Genetic testing can save lives, but there are also some large concerns about its use.

 

Genetic engineering on embryos

IVF treatment

Check for the likelihood of being a carrier of cystic fibrosis

Check for the possibility of becoming diabetic

Test for the likelihood of catching salmonella

What are some of the benefits of using gene technology for medical reasons?

 

Poor health is reduced in the population

All pregnancies can be terminated if any genetic difference is found

Technology in IVF helps the embryos with the best chance of survival to be selected

It can help people know their risk of different diseases

It will guarantee to tell you if you will get any disease

Tom has green eyes while Susan has brown eyes.

 

They have a child, Claire, who has green eyes.

 

Three children in a ball pool

Poor health is reduced in the population

All pregnancies can be terminated if any genetic difference is found

Technology in IVF helps the embryos with the best chance of survival to be selected

It can help people know their risk of different diseases

It will guarantee to tell you if you will get any disease

  • Question 1

Consider the size of different genetic structures.

 

Match the structures to their relative sizes, with  number 1 being for the biggest.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

1
Genome
2
Chromosome
3
Double helix
4
Gene
5
Nucleotide
EDDIE SAYS
This question is linked to question one, and will hopefully, reinforce your mental picture of DNA and all the terms we use to describe its many forms! Our genome is the entire genetic code that our cells contain, providing information for every protein our body needs to survive and grow. So it's relatively large. This genetic code is organised into chromosomes in our nuclei, and when we zoom in, these are actually long double helix chains, a section of which is a gene. Finally, nucleotides are the small subunits that make the double helix when grouped together - they are the smallest of the structures above.
  • Question 2

Match the term with its definition.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Genome
All of a human's DNA
Double helix
The structure of DNA
Gene
A small piece of the double helix...
Chromosome
A large section of DNA
EDDIE SAYS
So, do you think you have a good grasp of all the definitions in this topic? Zooming in on the DNA more and more closely, the entire bunch of genetic information is our genome, with DNA being arranged in chromosomes. When a chromosome is unravelled, a piece of its double helix is a gene. In the most basic form, DNA is made of blocks of nucleotides that make up the double helix.
  • Question 3

DNA is made up of lots of small nucleotide subunits.

 

Complete the sentence below.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
You might have already heard this term used before in chemistry, so that tells you it's a useful term to know! A polymer is a large molecule made of many small units - in this case, many nucleotides make the chemical DNA.
  • Question 4

Is it true or false that a mutation is a natural change to DNA that alters how we look?

CORRECT ANSWER
True or false
EDDIE SAYS
This one was tricky but remember that small point that was mentioned in the Introduction. It's true that a mutation is created when a gene changes - this can be natural but it can also be caused by exposure to chemicals such as radioactive toxins or cigarettes! They can sometimes be beneficial, sometimes dangerous, but often have no impact. So it's very rare that a mutation has an obvious effect on our appearance.
  • Question 5

What is our phenotype?

CORRECT ANSWER
How our genetics have made us look
EDDIE SAYS
Our phenotype is our appearance and personality that our genes have coded for. This does not include characteristics acquired during our lifetime, such as plastic surgery procedures, as these can not be passed onto your children because they are not in your DNA.
  • Question 6

Gene technology is heavily used in agriculture. 

 

Match the scenarios below regarding the use of GM crops. 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Did you know that 'GM' means genetically modified or changed, using gene technology? Producing more plants, better quality plants and pest-resistant crops are all benefits to using gene technology in farming. However, making new species of plants means we don't know the effect these will have on our bodies or on other plants in the future, an example being that some of these plants make their own style of toxins to discourage competition. This is often normal, but we don't have any prior experience with these GM crops, meaning that we don't know if these toxins could create new allergies or make a safe plant poisonous to humans.
  • Question 7

What is an example of genetic technology in healthcare?

CORRECT ANSWER
IVF treatment
Check for the likelihood of being a carrier of cystic fibrosis
Check for the possibility of becoming diabetic
EDDIE SAYS
Genetic technology has allowed genetic testing and profiling in a wide variety of areas in medicine, including IVF and pregnancy check-ups. It is also used to build people's genetic profiles in order to assess their risk of certain diseases, especially if their close relatives have something and they are worried about their likelihood of getting it too, such as diabetes or Parkinson's. Indeed, sometimes people can have a genetic condition that they might carry to their offspring, such as cystic fibrosis. The incorrect option here was the final one. Salmonella is a disease caused by bacteria from eating contaminated food and is not influenced by any genetic code.
  • Question 8

Genetic testing can save lives, but there are also some large concerns about its use.

 

Genetic engineering on embryos

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Designer babies are a real worry for the future, as ethically it's generally acceptable to try to create babies who are healthy, so the child and the parents can have a good quality of life. There are concerns that some parents might start to reject healthy embryos because they want a particular gender baby or because they want them to have blue eyes or red hair. The principles behind the gift of choice in genetic technology become sketchy in terms of morals. As the ability grows to be able to produce designer babies, it raises the question of whether it is right to do it, just because we can.
  • Question 9

What are some of the benefits of using gene technology for medical reasons?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Poor health is reduced in the population
Technology in IVF helps the embryos with the best chance of survival to be selected
It can help people know their risk of different diseases
EDDIE SAYS
This question really hits home regarding the sensitivity of gene technology. Terminating a pregnancy is not an easy decision or subject area to learn about, but it's an important consideration for all pregnant women, especially if something goes wrong and their health and their baby's health are put at risk. Saying this, many steps are taken before this decision is made and it is often the last resort. Also, a genetic difference does not mean the baby will be sick - they could have an advantageous mutation or more likely show no signs of it whatsoever, so think carefully about how the question is phrased! Also, genetic testing can help you see your genetic code and so help you to understand what your body's weak points might be, helping you to prioritise those aspects of your health as you age. However, while it can sometimes tell you if you will get a disease for certain, as in major genetic illnesses like Parkinson's, often scientists can only predict risk from your DNA. Your lifestyle also plays a huge role in whether any potential problems will actually come to life in your body. And of course, no procedure is fool-proof, so be wary when a question uses terms like 'guaranteed', 'always' or '100%'! Well done for completing a pretty tough activity!
  • Question 10

Tom has green eyes while Susan has brown eyes.

 

They have a child, Claire, who has green eyes.

 

Three children in a ball pool

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Whew, this was a lot of information! Did you manage to get it all right? A person's phenotype is how they look and act to the outside world based on their genetics - it includes characteristics we can actually witness! Parents pass on 23 chromosomes each, giving 23 pairs or 46 single chromosomes in total, and in these, different parents may pass on different versions of the same gene called alleles.
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