|Resources - Glossary
The following glossary is a compilation of several sources, formatted to be understandable for families. The definitions that The Children's Museum has supplied are meant to be starting paths for a lifetime of learning and do not represent the whole of biotechnology work.
The science of growing food to meet the needs of an increasing population, it includes studying the cultivation and selection of best crops and how to produce enough.
This small, very common plant was the first entire plant genome to be sequenced. Chosen because it has a small genome, it is a good plant for research, has many mutant species and develops quickly, Arabidopsis thaliana was sequenced in 2000 and has helped make valuable discoveries throughout the plant biotechnology world.
The process by which humans use living things to meet their wants.
Cell membrane ('sel - 'mem-"bran)
The outer boundary of the cell that controls the movement of materials in and out of the cell. Found in both plant and animal cells.
Cell wall ('sel 'wol)
The tough, rigid outer covering that surrounds the cell membrane of plant cells. It protects plant cells and helps the plant keep its shape.
Green, oval-shaped structures that enable plants to make sugars through photosynthesis.
an enzyme used in the biotechnological manufacture of cheese. Created in 1990, it was the first product of recombinant DNA and helped pave the way for the research that scientists are doing today.
Crick, Francis ('krik, 'fran(t)-s&s)
Born in 1916, Crick codiscovered the structure of DNA in 1953 with James Watson. DNA is the code of life and helps scientists understand the differences in all living creatures.
Crossbreeding ('kros-"brEd, -'brEd)
Combining two plants with different traits, with the aim of producing a new plant, with both traits. For instance, a plant with white flowers and small leaves and a plant with huge, bright green leaves and no flowers could be crossbred to produce a plant with white flowers and huge, green leaves.
The fluid within the cell that contains organelles and aids in moving things around in the cell. It surrounds the nucleus. The cytoplasm is made up of about two-thirds water.
Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) ('dE-'äk-si-"rI-bO-n(y)u-"klE-ik 'a-s&d)
DNA from all organisms is made up of the same chemical and physical components. The DNA sequence is the particular side-by-side arrangement of bases along the DNA strand (such as ATTCCGGA). This order spells out the exact instructions required to create a particular organism with its own unique traits; first described by Francis Crick and James Watson in 1953, DNA looks like a twisted extension ladder. It is found in the nucleus and controls everything inside the cell.
Endoplasmic reticulum ("en-d&-'plaz-mik/ ri-'ti-ky&-l&m)
The E.R. is a network of membranes that stores, separates and transports substances within the cell. It is like a ribbon floating throughout the cytoplasm. There are two different types:
- Smooth E.R. - makes lipids, processes carbohydrates and modifies toxic chemicals in the cell.
- Rough E.R. contains ribosomes on its surface and makes proteins to be secreted by the cell, makes new cell membranes.
A protein that speeds up the rate at which a biochemical reaction proceeds, but does not change the direction or nature of the reaction. Chymosin, defined above and used in the production of cheese, is an enzyme.
Fermentation Process ("f&r-m&n-'tA-sh&n 'prä-"ses)
Adding a living organism, malolactic bacteria, allows for wines to have a smoother and less acidic taste. Fermentation is biotechnology because it adds a living organism to change products such as wine, cheese and other foods.
FlavrSavr© tomato (flA-v&r 'sA-v&r)
The FlavrSavr© tomato was developed in 1994 in order to work around the time restrictions on an ordinary tomato. Although the flavor is not changed in any appreciable way, the ability of the tomato to resist rotting was increased. Biotechnologists inserted an antisense gene into FlavrSavr© tomatoes, which allows tomatoes to ripen on the vine and stay firmer and healthier on their trip to your grocery.
the basic physical and functional units of heredity. Genes are specific sequences of bases that encode instructions on how to make proteins.
the process by which scientists use molecular tools to move genes from one organism to another, changing one or more traits of the receiving organism; similar to recombinant DNA
Genetically-Modified (GM) Foods (j&-'ne-tik(&-)lE 'mä-d&-"fI d)
food products that have been changed through genetic processes. Sometimes genes will be added to provide extra nutrients, such as in rice, apples and carrots; sometimes a gene may be removed to enhance other characteristics, such as removing the tear-producing element of onions. GM foods have been generally sold in major grocery stores in Europe since the 1980s and in the United States since the 1990s. These have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, among others.
Genetically Engineered Bacterium (Classical Biotechnology)
the use of a living organism (a bacterium) to move genes from one organism to the next. The bacterium acts as a truck, hauling changes from site A to site B. Differs from recombinant DNA by using a living organism to transfer information.
The study of heredity and how traits are passed on through generations. Developed by Gregor Mendel in the 1800s, it is an expanding and influential field in the modern scientific world.
an organism's complete set of DNA. Genomes vary widely in size: the smallest known genome for a free-living organism (a bacterium) contains about 600,000 DNA base pairs, while human and mouse genomes have some 3 billion.
First thought of in 1999, golden rice actually combines betacarotene, which produces Vitamin A in the body, with regular rice. Betacarotene and Vitamin A levels are important to the body because they help prevent blindness and fight off infection. Betacarotene is found most commonly in carrots and gives them their orange color. The addition of betacarotene gives this rice a golden color and, it is hoped, can provide crucial vitamins and nutrients to third-world countries. However, many tests still have to be performed on golden rice and scientists think that worldwide production of the food may not happen until 2006.
Golgi apparatus ('gol-(")jE "a-p&-'ra-t&s)
Flat pancake-like sacs where protein molecules are sorted, changed, packaged and distributed throughout the cell.
Hybrid corn plants have parents that were different species from each other. Combining the traits from each parent allows it to be healthier and stronger than either of its parents. William James Beal is credited with crossbreeding corn to make the first hybrid corn. Hybrid corn today helps with the study of genetics. When modified to include an insect repellent, it is commonly called BT-corn. It is safe to eat, but genetically modified.
using one strand of DNA to create the paired strand, so that the proper double helix structure of DNA can be created; by having one strand, the use of DNA probes can be used and the discovery of the exact makeup of DNA is much easier to uncover.
An enzyme produced naturally in humans that controls blood-sugar levels. When it is not produced in large enough quantities, a person becomes diabetic and has to receive injections of insulin. Before 1982, these injections were made from pig insulin. However, through biotechnology, insulin causing fewer allergic or toxic reactions can be produced using bacteria.
Lactic Bacteria ('lak-tik bak-'tir-E-&)
A living organism added to cheese. Unlike the usual bacteria found in cheese, lactic bacteria are safe to eat. Scientists heat up the cheese (getting rid of the dangerous bacteria) and put lactic bacteria into the cheese to improve its overall taste.
Small spheres floating around the cytoplasm that contain digestive enzymes to help break down bacteria and viruses within the cell.
Mendel, Gregor ('men-d&l )
Called the "Father of Genetics," he did several in-depth studies of pea plants and kept great records. Gregor Mendel was a monk who lived from 1822 - 1884 and devoted his life to science. Mendel crossbred plants using classical breeding and noted his findings; his research eventually led to the science that we call genetics.
Microscope (micro = "small"; scope = to see) (micro = "small"; scope = to see)
This groundbreaking invention uses lenses, mirrors and light to look at smaller units of life than humans can see with our naked eyes. When first invented by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the microscope had a very basic and simple design. Other scientists have since increased the number or angle of the lenses, allowing scientists to look more closely at the microscopic world. The microscope is an invention found in almost every laboratory in the world! Scientists have even created an electron microscope that bounces tiny particles off of objects so that things as small as DNA can be seen.
Mitochondria produces the energy to power the cell's activities. It changes the energy stored in food compounds into a useful form. It is a kidney-bean-shaped organelle floating around the cytoplasm.
One of the larger organelles found in all cells. The nucleus is usually the shape of a sphere and contains the cell's genetic material. It is the control center of the cell. It is found floating in the cytoplasm.
large, complex molecules made up of smaller subunits called amino acids. Proteins perform most life functions and make up the majority of cellular structures.
Recombinant DNA ("rE-'käm-b&-n&nt)
Procedure used to join together DNA, outside of a cell or organism. The recombinant DNA can then be inserted into a cell and changes such as more nutrients in a carrot or a chemical to block bugs from potatoes will be produced in that plant. Differs from genetically engineered bacterium by NOT using a living organism to transfer information.
The protein extracted from a sheep's stomach lining; it helps in the separation of milk into curds and whey. Scientists found that the main enzyme in rennet for the separation process is chymosin.
Ribosomes are tiny ball-like structures found at the surface of the endoplasmic reticulum and floating in the cytoplasm. Proteins are formed in the ribosomes.
Pasteur, Louis (pas-'t&r)
Living from 1822 - 1895, this French scientist helped save millions of people. He invented pasteurization, which keeps milk free from harmful bacteria. Pasteur also helped stop the spread of diseases such as rabies and anthrax, and contributed to the first studies about vaccinations.
The process by which milk is heated above 145¡ F for at least 30 minutes, and then quickly cooled. The heating and cooling procedure destroys all harmful bacteria, but does not affect the taste or food value. First invented by Louis Pasteur in the late 1800s, it is now required for food safety.
Selective Breeding (Selection) (s&-'lek-tiv 'brEd)
the conscious choice of one trait (or one plant) over a different plant. This has been done for thousands of years and is best demonstrated in Gregor Mendel's pioneering work on pea plants through which he learned that green parent plants produce green offspring, whereas two different plants, green and yellow, produce an assortment of various-colored offspring.
A sac that absorbs water, stores proteins, ions and waste products. Vacuoles are large in plant cells and small in animal cells. They provide support for plant cells.
Van Leeuwenhoek, Antonie
This Dutch scientist lived from 1632 - 1723. He refined the microscope to provide clearer, better images. He saw bacteria and protozoa (which he called "very little animalcules") and helped pave the way for major scientific advancements in understanding diseases.
Born in 1928, James Watson co-discovered the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick. DNA is the code of life. Understanding the code helps scientists to understand differences in all living creatures.
a living organism used to make bread rise. By forcing the living organism to interact with our environment, the biotechnology of making bread is begun.
By permission. Pronunciation Symbols from Merriam-Webster Online ©2005 by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated (www.Merriam-Webster.com).
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\j\ as j in j ob
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\O\ as o in g o
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