Contents | Bibliography
A | B | C
| D | E | F
| G | H | I
| J | K | L | M
| N | O | P | Q | R
| S | T | U
| V | W | X | Y | Z
albino: Having pale or colorless skin, eyes, and hair because
the body does not produce enough pigment.
alpha-fetoprotein test (AFP): A prenatal test to measure the
amount of a fetal protein in the mother's blood. Abnormal amounts of the
protein may indicate genetic problems in the fetus.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A 1990 federal law that
forbids discrimination against persons who are disabled.
amniocentesis: A prenatal test in which cells surrounding a fetus
are removed in order to examine the chromosomes.
artificial insemination: The injection of semen into a woman's
uterus (not through sexual intercourse) in order to make her pregnant.
bacteria: Very small, single-celled life-forms that can reproduce
bases: Distinct chemical ingredients found in the genetic material
of all life-forms.
behavioral genetics: The study of whether and how traits for
behavior are inherited.
biotechnology: The use of living things to make products.
carcinogens: Cancer-causing substances.
carrier: A person who has one copy of the gene mutation for a
recessive disorder. Carriers are not affected by the disorder. However,
they can pass on the mutated gene to their children. Children who inherit
two such genes may be affected by the disorder.
chorionic villus sampling (CVS): A prenatal test in which cells
surrounding an embryo are removed in order to examine the chromosomes.
chromosomes: Separate strands of genes, contained in the nucleus
of a cell. Normally, chromosomes appear in corresponding pairs. A genome
is made up of a complete set of paired chromosomes.
clone: To make an exact copy of something.
conception: In reproduction, the point at which a sperm fertilizes
crossing over: Where a section of one chromosome switches places
with the same section from the other chromosome of the pair. This sometimes
occurs when a germ cell makes copies of its chromosomes before dividing.
cystic fibrosis (CF): A recessive genetic disorder affecting
the mucus lining of the lungs, leading to breathing problems and other
cultivate: To cause to grow and multiply, such as by growing
cells in a laboratory dish that contains nutrients.
data bank: A collection of information organized
so that specific facts can be retrieved as needed. Today, many data banks
are organized on computers.
disorders: Problems in how the body functions. Health problems
caused by mutations in the genes are referred to as genetic disorders.
DNA: The material inside the nucleus of cells that carries genetic
information. The scientific name for DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid.
DNA fingerprinting: A term for DNA typing. (See below.)
DNA marker: A gene or other fragment of DNA whose location in
the genome is known.
DNA typing: The analysis of sections of DNA for purposes of identification.
dominant: Having power and influence. In genetics, a dominant
gene is a gene that expresses its instructions.
embryo: An animal in the early stage of
development before birth. In humans, the embryo stage is the first three
months following conception.
environment: The nongenetic conditions and circumstances that
affect a person's conduct and health.
enzymes: Proteins that trigger activity in the cells of the body.
An enzyme is not affected by the activity that it sets off.
ethical issues: Questions concerning what is moral or right.
ethicists: People who spend time thinking about ethics, that
is, about values related to human conduct.
eugenics: The belief that information about heredity can be used
to improve the human race.
evolution: The process by which all forms of plant and animal
life change slowly over time because of slight variations in the genes
that one generation passes down to the next.
ex utero genetic testing: DNA analysis performed on cells
of eggs that have been fertilized in vitro.
fetus: An animal in the later stage of development before birth.
In humans, the fetal stage is the from the end of the third month until
genes: Units of hereditary information. Genes
contain the instructions for the production of proteins, which make up
the structure of cells and direct their activities.
gene therapy: The altering of genes in order to affect their
genetic counseling: Education and guidance offered by professional
advisors in order to help people make informed decisions based on genetic
knowledge. Genetic counseling is intended to help a person understand the
meaning of specific information about his or her genes. It also is intended
to help a person decide whether to have a genetic test performed or what
to do with information provided by such a test.
genetic determinism: The false belief that a person's fate is
determined solely by his or her genes.
genetic engineering: The artificial introduction of changes to
the genes in a cell.
genetic expression: The effects of a gene's instruction on the
cells of the body.
genetic linkage study: Examination of the DNA of family members
to determine who may be at risk for a genetic disorder occurring in the
family tree. Doctors look for variations that consistently appear in the
DNA of family members with the disorder. These DNA variations may or may
not be related to the genetic disorder. However, if they appear in the
DNA of another family member, it can indicate the person's risk of inheriting
genetic profile: A collection of information about a person's
genetics: The field of science that looks at how traits are passed
down from one generation to another, through the genes.
genome: The complete package of genetic material for a living
thing, organized in chromosomes. A copy of the genome is found in most
germ cells: The cells of the body involved in reproduction. Sperm
of the male and eggs of the female are formed from germ cells.
germ-line therapy: The altering of genes in reproductive cells
(sperm or egg) in order to affect their function in any offspring that
may be created.
heredity: The handing down of certain
traits from parents to their offspring. The process of heredity occurs
through the genes.
hormones: Proteins produced by organs of the body that trigger
activity in other locations.
Human Genome Project: The scientific mission to "read" the order
of bases as they appear in the DNA of human chromosomes. The Human Genome
Project actually is not one project, but rather many hundreds of separate
research projects being conducted throughout the world. The objective is
to create a directory of the genes that can be used to answer questions
such as what specific genes do and how they work.
Huntington's disease (HD): A dominant genetic disorder in which
a protein is produced abnormally, leading to the breakdown in the parts
of the brain that control movement.
immune disorders: Health problems caused by the fact that the
body cannot properly fight infection.
in vitro fertilization: The mixing of eggs with sperm
in a laboratory dish in order to achieve conception.
karyotype: A picture of the chromosomes in a cell that is used
to check for abnormalities. A karyotype is created by staining the chromosomes
with dye and photographing them through a microscope. The photograph is
then cut up and rearranged so that the chromosomes are lined up into corresponding
legal issues: Questions concerning the protections that laws
or regulations should provide.
mutation: Changes that occur to the order of bases appearing
in the DNA inside a cell.
nuclear transfer technology: A procedure for making a clone,
or exact genetic copy, of an existng animal. In this procedure the nucleus
containing the chromosomes is removed from the cell of one animal for fusion
with an egg cell from which the nucleus has been removed. The life that
results is the genetic equal of the animal that donated the nucleus.
nuclei: The plural of nucleus.
nucleus: The central part of a cell where the chromosomes are
parasites: Plants or animals that live
off another creature (or even inside it), obtaining food and protection
without offering any benefit in return.
paternity: Identification of the father of a child.
pigment: The dyelike material in cells that provides color to
skin, eye and hair.
prenatal: Before birth.
privacy: The condition of being left alone, out of public view
and in control of information that is known about you.
proteins: The basic chemicals that make up the structure of cells
and direct their activities.
recessive: Moving back and out of view. In genetics, a recessive
gene is a gene that does not express its instructions when paired with
a dominant gene.
reproductive technology: The application of scientific knowledge
to assist in making babies.
selective breeding: The selection of
certain seeds or animals for reproduction in order to influence the traits
inherited by the next generation.
severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID): An immune disorder in
which the body does not produce the special blood cells that resist infection.
sickle cell anemia: A recessive genetic disorder in which red
blood cells take on an unusual shape, leading to other problems with the
social issues: Questions concerning how events may affect society
as a whole and individuals in society.
species: A single, distinct class of living creature with features
that distinguish it from others.
surrogate: A substitute or stand-in. A surrogate mother carries
a fetus that was conceived by another female and then implanted in her
temperament: A person's way of responding to the world. Examples
of temperament include shy, bold, risk taking, and cautious.
traits: Ways of looking, thinking, or being. Traits that are
genetic are passed down through the genes from parents to offspring.
transgenic: Containing genes from another species.
ultrasound imaging: A technique for looking inside the body by
using sound waves to create images.
viruses: Extremely small and simple life-forms, made merely of
a protein shell and a genome. A virus reproduces by inserting its genome
into the cells of other life-forms. As those cells duplicate, so does the
Your Genes, Your Choices is a publication of Science
+ Literacy for Health, a project of the AAAS
Directorate for Education and Human Resources. The publication was
funded by the U.S.
Department of Energy. The website was built by Mike
Wooldridge. Send feedback to SciLi@aaats.org.