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Glossary

A list of terms used throughout the site

Bacteria

A group of microscopic, prokaryotic, single-celled organisms. 

Base

(or nucleotide) The basic unit of genetic instructions. DNA is encoded in four chemical bases: adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C ) and guanine (G).

Biodiversity

(or biological diversity) The variation of life at a genetic, species or habitat level. 

Bioinformatics

The interdisciplinary field of science which uses computer methods and softwares to understand biological data.

CRISPR-Cas9

A type of genome editing technology that enables researchers to edit parts of the genome.

Cancer

A common genetic disease caused by mutations in DNA, and characterised by uncontrolled cell growth.

Cell

The basic structural and functional biological unit of all living things.

Chromosome

A long molecule which stores all or part of the DNA of an organism.

DNA

(deoxyribonucleic acid) A molecule that carries the genetic information necessary to build and maintain an organism.

DNA sequencing

The process of determining the order of bases in a section of DNA.

Embryonic Stem Cell

A stem cell derived from an early embryo. They have the ability to become any cell type.

Epidemic

 A disease outbreak that’s rapidly spreading in a limited region.

Eukaryote

A single or multi-celled organism whose cells contain a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles. Animals, plants and fungi (including yeast) are eukaryotes.

Evolution

The process by which organisms change and adapt by natural selection.

Gene

A section of DNA within a genome that carries a specific set of information – often the information needed to make a protein.

Gene therapy

The treatment of a condition through modifying a patient’s genes, usually by introducing typically behaving genes to replace non-functioning versions.

Genetic condition

A condition caused by a change in an individual’s DNA.

Genetic engineering

The direct manipulation of genes to alter an organism’s characteristic in a particular way.

Genetic modification

The process of altering the genetic material of an organism, including direct and indirect methods.

Genetic testing

A type of test used to identify changes in DNA, chromosomes or protein production, which might be linked to a medical condition.

Genome

The complete set of genetic instructions required to build and maintain an organism.

Genome editing

A group of techniques used to make an alteration(s) to DNA.

Germline

The genetic material that can be passed onto offspring through the germ cells (e.g. sperm and egg).

Host

An organism that houses another, smaller organism. This can be positive, negative or neutral to the host organism.

Immunity

An organism’s ability to resist an infection or disease.

Model organism

A species that has been widely studied in biology, usually because it is easy to maintain and breed in a laboratory setting and has particular experimental advantages.

Multipotent

A stem cell with the ability to develop into specific kinds of specialised cells, but not all cells in the body.

Mutation

A change in the DNA sequence, which may have positive, negative or neutral effects on the organism.

Pandemic

A disease outbreak that’s actively spreading across the world.

Parasite

An organism that lives in or on another organism (the host) and benefits at the expense of their host.

Patent

A type of intellectual property that gives the holder sole rights to make or use a product or idea.

Pharmacogenomics

An area of genomics that studies how individuals react to drug treatments – a form of personalised medicine.

Pluripotent

A cell with the ability to develop into any kind of specialised cell in the body.

Protein

A large molecule made from chains of amino acids, which perform an array of functions with a cell or organism.

RNA

(ribonucleic acid) A single-stranded molecule that acts as an information messenger or occasional information storage.

Species

A group of closely-related organisms that have common physical and genetic characteristics and are able to interbreed to produce fertile offspring.

Stem cell

A cell that has the potential to develop into many different cell types.

Transgenic

An organism that contains additional, artificially-introduced genetic material originating from a different organism in every cell.

Vaccine

A type of treatment that provides active acquired immunity against a specific pathogen.

Virus

A group of small infectious agents that can only replicate inside the living cells of another organism.

Whole Genome Sequencing

(or full genome sequencing) The process of determining the entirety of an organism’s genome.

X-ray photography

A photographic technique which uses X-rays to reveal internal details or structures of an object.