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Understand the Genome and its Impact on Modern Medicine

In this worksheet, students will further their understanding of the genome and DNA, and state how knowing our genetics can help advance medical practice and technologies.

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

When you look in the mirror, don't you wonder how our bodies know how to make us who we are?


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

 


DNA is what all genetic information is made up of, 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.

 

And all this genetic information in us is called our GENOME!

 

 

Another point to note is that cells look at the double helix in small chunks at a time, called a gene.

 

One gene makes one specific code, like hair colour! BUT we're blonde and brunette because there are different versions of one gene called alleles!

 

And like you have a unique allele cocktail for your appearance, we can use them to figure out someone's specific risk of disease, meaning understanding our genome is important in healthcare.

 

 

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

 

BUT not all mutations are bad! Some can be useful like bigger teeth on a dinosaur made them better hunters!

 

Our DNA decides how we look and act, 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 technology involves changing the genes already in an organism, which causes some divided opinions in farming and medicine.

 

In farming, more crops, better quality crops and adding resistance to insects into their genome seems like the solution to world hunger, but some people have had bad reactions to these new plants like allergies!

 

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

 

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

 

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

Consider the size of different genetic structures.

 

Match the term with its definition:

 

Column A

Column B

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

As DNA is made of lots of small nucleotide subunits, this makes DNA a what?

True or False:

 

'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 living for example bigger muscles

Gene technology is heavily used in agriculture. 

Indicate which of the scenarios below are the pros and cons regarding GM crops. 

 

What is an example of genetic technology in healthcare?

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

 

Which three options below is a benefit to medical gene technology?

 

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 can tell you if you will get any disease guaranteed

Tom has green eyes while Susan has brown eyes.

 

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

 

      

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 can tell you if you will get any disease guaranteed

  • Question 1

Consider the size of different genetic structures.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
This question is linked to question one, this activity aims to 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. This is organised into chromosomes in our nuclei, and when we zoom in, they're actually long double helix chains, a section of which is a gene. However, nucleotides are the small subunits that make the double helix when grouped together.
  • 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, but in the most basic form, DNA is made of blocks of nucleotides that make up the double helix.
  • Question 3

As DNA is made of lots of small nucleotide subunits, this makes DNA a what?

CORRECT ANSWER
POLYMER
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

True or False:

 

'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 when a gene changes- this can be natural but can also be caused by exposure to chemicals like 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 your lifetime like plastic surgeries, 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. 

Indicate which of the scenarios below are the pros and cons regarding GM crops. 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
So again, the questions are getting harder and expecting more from us. Note: 'GM' means genetically modified or changed using gene technology! More plants, better quality plants and pest-resistant crops are all benefits to gene technology in farming. However, making new species of plants means we don't know the effect these will have on our bodies and other plants in the future, an example being these plants making 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 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
Pregnancy tests
Pregnancy scans
Pregnancy blood test
EDDIE SAYS
Genetic technology has allowed genetic testing and profiling in a wide variety of areas in medicine, including IVF, pregnancy check-ups and building people's genetic profiles 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, like diabetes or Parkinson's.
  • Question 8

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

 

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Designer babies are a real worry for the future, as ethically it's generally accepted to try to only birth babies who are healthy so the child and the parents can have good qualities of life, but if parents start to reject healthy embryos because they won't have blue eyes or red hair, the principles behind the gift of choice in genetic technology becomes sketchy in terms of morals.
  • Question 9

Which three options below is a benefit to medical gene technology?

 

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 is 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 genetics and so make you understand what your body's weak points might be, helping you to prioritise your health as you age. However, while it can sometimes tell you if you will get a disease for certain, like in major genetic illnesses like Parkinson's, often scientists can only predict risk from your DNA, as 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 vary when a question uses terms like 'guaranteed' 'always' '100%'!
  • Question 10

Tom has green eyes while Susan has brown eyes.

 

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

 

      

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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