Genetics CRISPR enters its first human trials – Science News for Students

Posted: September 22, 2019 at 4:42 am

(more about Power Words)

cancerAny of more than 100 different diseases, each characterized by the rapid, uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The development and growth of cancers, also known as malignancies, can lead to tumors, pain and death.

Cas9An enzyme that geneticists are now using to help edit genes.It can cut through DNA, allowing it to fix broken genes, splice in new ones or disable certain genes. Cas9 is shepherded to the place it is supposed to make cuts by CRISPRs, a type of genetic guides. The Cas9 enzyme came from bacteria. When viruses invade a bacterium, this enzyme can chop up the germs DNA, making it harmless.

cellThe smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. asyeasts, molds, bacteria and some algae, are composed of only one cell.

clinicaltrialA research trial that involves people.

CRISPRAn abbreviation pronounced crisper for the term clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. These are pieces of RNA, an information-carrying molecule. They are copied from the genetic material of viruses that infect bacteria. When a bacterium encounters a virus that it was previously exposed to, it produces an RNA copy of the CRISPR that contains that virus genetic information. The RNA then guides an enzyme, called Cas9, to cut up the virus and make it harmless. Scientists are now building their own versions of CRISPR RNAs. These lab-made RNAs guide the enzyme to cut specific genes in other organisms. Scientists use them, like a genetic scissors, to edit or alter specific genes so that they can then study how the gene works, repair damage to broken genes, insert new genes or disable harmful ones.

disorder(in medicine) A condition where the body does not work appropriately, leading to what might be viewed as an illness. This term can sometimes be used interchangeably with disease.

DNA(short for deoxyribonucleic acid) Along, double-stranded and spiral-shaped molecule inside most living cells that carries genetic instructions. It is built on a backbone of phosphorus, oxygen, and carbon atoms. In all living things, from plants and animals to microbes, these instructions tell cells which molecules to make.

engineerA person who uses science to solve problems. As a verb, to engineer means to design a device, material or process that will solve some problem or unmet need.

gene(adj. genetic) A segment of DNA that codes, or holds instructions, for a cells production of a protein. Offspring inherit genes from their parents. Genes influence how an organism looks and behaves.

geneticHaving to do with chromosomes, DNA and the genes contained within DNA. The field of science dealing with these biological instructions is known as genetics. People who work in this field are geneticists.

hemoglobinA molecule that binds to oxygen in the blood, carrying it around to tissues.

immune(adj.) Having to do with the immunity. (v.) Able to ward off a particular infection.Alternatively, this term can be used to mean an organism shows no impacts from exposure to a particular poison or process. More generally, the term may signal that something cannot be hurt by a particular drug, disease or chemical.

insightThe ability to gain an accurate and deep understanding of a situation just by thinking about it, instead of working out a solution through experimentation.

multiplemyelomaThis cancer starts in a type of white blood cells known as plasma cells. Part of the immune system, they help guard the body from germs and other harmful substances.

muscleA type of tissue used to produce movement by contracting its cells, known as muscle fibers. Muscle is rich in protein, which is why predatory species seek prey containinglots of this tissue.

mutation(v. mutate) Some change that occurs to a gene in an organisms DNA. Some mutations occur naturally. Others can be triggered by outside factors, such as pollution, radiation, medicines or something in the diet. A gene with this change is referred to as a mutant.

nerveA long, delicate fiberthat transmits signalsacross the body of an animal. An animals backbone contains many nerves, some of which control the movement of its legs or fins, and some of which convey sensations such as hot, cold or pain.

neuronAn impulse-conducting cell. Such cells are found in the brain, spinal column and nervous system.

oxygenA gas that makes up about 21 percent of Earth's atmosphere. All animals and many microorganisms need oxygen to fuel their growth (and metabolism).

pharmaceuticalsMedicines, especially prescription drugs.

plasma (in medicine) The colorless fluid part of blood.

proteinA compoundmade from one or more long chains of amino acids. Proteins are an essential part of all living organisms. They form the basis of living cells, muscle and tissues; they also do the work inside of cells. Among the better-known, stand-alone proteins are thehemoglobin (in blood) and the antibodies (also in blood) that attempt to fight infections. Medicines frequently work by latching onto proteins.

redblood cellColored red by hemoglobin, these cells move oxygen from the lungs to all tissues of the body. Red blood cells are too small to be seen by the unaided eye.

retinaA layer at the back of the eyeball containing cells that are sensitive to light and that trigger nerve impulses that travel along the optic nerve to the brain, where a visual image is formed.

RNAA molecule that helps read the genetic information contained in DNA. A cells molecular machinery reads DNA to create RNA, and then reads RNA to create proteins.

sarcomaA family of more than 70 cancers that begin in bones or in connective tissues.

technologyThe application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry or the devices, processes and systems that result from those efforts.

therapy(adj. therapeutic) Treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder.

variantA version of something that may come in different forms. (ingenetics) A gene having a slight mutation that may have left its host species somewhat better adapted for its environment.

wombAnother name for the uterus, the organ in mammals in which a fetus grows and matures in preparation for birth.

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Genetics CRISPR enters its first human trials - Science News for Students

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