Glossary

Definitions of selected terms

5S ribosomal RNA
Short form of RNA.
8M urea
A chemical reagent.
32P (Phosphorous-32)
Radioactive label.
35S (35 Sulfur)
Radioactive label/
Acinetobacter baumannii
Also known 'Iraquibacter', this is a type of bacteria that commonly causes ventilator-associated pneumonia and blood-stream infection in critically ill patients with compromised immune systems.
Acrylamide gel
Also known as polyacrylamide gel, this gel is made up of several chemical compounds. First used in a laboratory setting in the early 1950s, this gel is used in electrophoresis, a technique used to separate and analyse molecules like DNA, RNA and proteins.
Amino acid
The building blocks that cells in the body use to build proteins. Each protein contains hundreds, even thousands of amino acids joined together in a specific sequence in chain-like formation. The order of the amino acids determines a protein's shape and function. Proteins are made up of 20 major amino acids.
Autoradiograph (autoradiogram)
An image showing the location of radioactive substances in an object.
Autoradiogaphy
A technique using x-ray film to detect and visualise the distribution of radioactive substances in a molecule.
B lymphocytes
Type of white blood cell.
Bacteriophage (phage)
A virus that infects and replicates within a bacterium. Various types of bacteriophages are mentioned in the exhibition: R17, lambda, f1, phi X 174 and M13.
Base pairs (bases)
Pair of complementary nucleotides in DNA.
BRCA1 and BRCA2
Genes involved in the production of proteins that help to repair damaged DNA and suppress the formation of tumours.
BRAF
Gene that codes for kinase enzymes, proteins involved in cell signalling pathways that control cell growth. Mutations in such genes can induce the development of cancer.
Burkitt's lymphoma
A type of blood cancer that is most common in equatorial Africa and New Guinea.
Chromatography
A chemical technique used to separate a mixture's components. During the test a mixture dissolved in a liquid or gas is passed through a column, paper or glass support, where the elements of the mixture are either absorbed or hindered to varying degrees and thereby become separated. The technique is used both for the purification and collection of components in a mixture so as to quantify and measure them.
Chromosome
Thread-like structure made up of a tightly coiled single strand of DNA located inside the nucleus of a cell. Usually found in pairs, chromosomes are involved in the transmission of hereditary information. They work in tandem with other nucleic acids to build proteins and are also involved in cell division.
Colorimetry
A technique that measures the concentration of a chemical element with the aid of a colour reagent.
Cloning technique
A method to produce genetically identical copies of a biological entity.
Codon
A set of consecutive, non-overlapping triplets of nucleotides.
Cytomegalovirus
One of eight viruses in the herpes family. This virus commonly infects humans but is largely harmless. Symptoms include a sore throat, swollen glands and a high temperature.
Cytoplasm
A fluid-filled space between the cell nucleus and the outer membrane.
Degradation method
A technique developed by Sanger where a large molecule is broken down, usually with enzymes, into smaller fragments and then pieced together to work out the sequence of the molecule's building blocks.
Deoxyribonuclease (DNAase)
An enzyme that cuts up DNA.
DNA
This stands for DeoxyriboNucleic acid, which is a complex chemical found in the nucleus and mitochondria of a cell. It provides the genetic instructions needed for an organism to develop, survive and reproduce.
DNA polymerase
An enzyme that facilitates the replication of DNA.
DNA sequencing
A biochemical method to determine exact order of the four building blocks, nucleotide bases, that make up a piece of DNA.
Dideoxynucleotide (dideoxy)
A compound that inhibits the action of DNA polymerase and block its attachment of nucleotides to a growing DNA chain.
Dideoxynucleotide triphosphate (ddTTP)
An analogue of a normal DNA polymerase substrate.
Disulfide bridges
Chemical bonds that link two peptide chains together. 
Double-helix
Term used to describe the spiral configuration of DNA.
Driver mutation
Mutation in DNA that induces cancer.
Escherichia coli
A type of bacteria that commonly live in the intestines of people and animals. There are many types of Escherichia coli. Most pose no harm to human health, but one group produces a potent toxin which can cause food poisoning.
Electrophoresis
An analytical method that uses an electric current to separate and sort out molecules based on their size. The method takes advantage of the charged particles in the molecules.
Epstein Barr Virus (EBV)
One of eight viruses in the herpes family, this virus is known to cause glandular fever and some forms of cancer and auto-immune diseases in humans.
Exon
A region of DNA or RNA that codes for a protein or peptide sequence
Fluorodinitrobenzene (FDNB)
A chemical reagent.
Fractionation
A separation process that divides a certain quantity of a mixture into a number of smaller quantities.
Free amino acids
Singlular molecules not bound by peptide bonds to other amino acids.
Gene
A distinct stretch of DNA that codes for proteins that perform the cellular functions in an organism. It is the basic physical and functional unit of hereditary. Genes vary in size. Each person has two copies of each gene, one inherited from each parent. Most genes are the same in all people, but a small proportion, 1%, are slightly different between people.
Genome
Complete set of genetic material within the single cell of an organism.
Genomics
A branch of genetics established in the 1980s directed towards studying the structure, function, evolution and mapping genomes in organisms.
Glycoprotein
A molecule that consists of a carbohydrate and a protein.
Gramicidin S
A type of antibiotic.
Haemagglutinin (H)
A type of protein molecule found on surface of a virus particle that enables a virus to enter host cells.
Haemoglobin
A protein molecule present in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells in the body.
Homochromatography
Type of chromatography that rests on the displacement of oligonucleotides (small groups of nucleotides) fixed on some ion-exchange paper by some unlabelled oligonucleotides.
Human Genome Project (HGP)
International research effort officially launched in 1990 and completed in 2003 to determine all three billion bases of DNA within the entire human genome and its genes.
Hydrolysis
The process by which chemical bonds in a molecule are broken down through the addition of water or another substance such as an acid.
Ion
An electrically charged atom formed by the loss or gain of one or more electrons.
Ionophoresis (Ion exchange chromatography)
A separation process that relies on charge-charge interactions between proteins in a sample and charges immobilized on resin.
Insulin
A hormone secreted by the pancreas that helps the body regulate sugar levels in the blood.
Lymphoma
Type of blood cancer.
Lysine
Essential nutrient in the human diet.
Metabolism
The chemical reactions that occur in a living cell or organism to build and break down substances.
Methionine
Type of amino acid.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
A bacterial species that is resistant to many widely used antibiotics.
Mitochondria
Specialised subunits present in the cytoplasm of cells that provide energy to the cell.
Mitochondrial DNA
Most DNA is contained within a cell's nucleus, but it can also be found in mitochondria. Unlike nuclear DNA, which is inherited from both parents, mitochondrial DNA is only passed on by the mother.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Type of microorganism that causes tuberculosis.
Myoglobin
A protein found in heart tissue and other muscles.
Neuraminidase
Type of enzyme that facilitates the release of new virus particles from infected host cells.
Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
Cancer of the throat and nose.
Nucleic acid
Long molecule made up of smaller molecules called nucleotides which are chemically linked together in a chain. Nucleotides are instrumental in transferring genetic information from one generation to another. There are two types of nucleic acids: deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA).
Nucleotides
Nucleotides are molecules present in all cells of the body. They serve many purposes, including acting as cellular messengers between the outside and the inside of a cell's nucleus, storing energy and as physiological mediators. Nucleotides are also necessary to the construction of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA. DNA is made up of four base nucleotides: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). RNA is made up of A, G, and C, plus uracil.
Octanucleotide
DNA fragment made up of eight nucleotides.
Patent
Form of intellectual property rights granted by a government to an inventor or their assignee for a limited amount of time in exchange for the public disclosure of the invention. A patent provides the right to exclude all others from making, using, or selling an invention or products made by an invented process. Like any other property right, it may be sold, licensed, assigned or transferred, given away or simply abandoned.
Peptide
A compound made up of two or more amino acids linked together in a chain.
Peptide bond
A chemical bond between two amino acid molecules.
Pharmacogenomics
The discipline that investigates the relationship between genetics and a person's response to a drug.
Primer
Template strand of DNA used to generate a new double-strand of DNA.
Plus minus technique
A technique developed by Sanger for sequencing DNA, which involves the use of DNA polymerase to add and exclude one trinucleotide to DNA chains and the end products, labelled with a radioactive tag, then being separated with electrophoresis on acrylamide gels and their sequences determined by autoradiography.
Polypeptide chain
Chain of amino acids.
Protein
Proteins are large complex molecules that do most of the work in the cells in a living organism. They play a crucial role in almost all biological processes, being involved in building, maintaining and replacing tissues in the body, as well helping to protect the body against foreign invaders, promoting chemical reactions in cells, transmitting signals between different cells, and transporting and storage of atoms and small molecules within cells throughout the body. They also provide structure and support for cells.
Recombinant DNA
Also known as gene cloning or splicing, recombinant DNA is a technique that produces identical copies (clones) of a gene.
Restriction enzymes
These are DNA-cutting enzymes found in and harvested from bacteria. Each enzyme recognises and cuts DNA at a particular point on its nucleotide chain.
Ribonuclease T1
Enzyme that cuts nucleic acids at a very specific point on a nucleotide chain.
Ribosubstitution method
Means to substitute a specific deoxynucleotide with a specific ribonucleotide in the DNA chain. The method facilitates a DNA chain to be cleaved at very specific points with an enzyme.
Ribonucleic acid (RNA)
A type of molecule that plays a role in the coding, decoding, regulation and expression of genes. There are two types of RNA: 1) messenger RNA (mRNA), responsible for carrying the genetic code to the ribosome to build a protein; and 2) transfer RNA (tRNA) which helps transfer specific amino acids from the cytoplasm to the ribosome.
Ribosome
A minute particle found in the cytoplasm of living cells which is responsible for assembling the proteins of a cell.
Ribonucleotide triphosphates
RNA precursors.
Serine proteases
Enzymes that cleave peptide bonds in proteins.
Sickle-cell anaemia
An inherited disorder that distorts the shape of red blood cells, making them fragile and prone to rupture, causing severe anaemia.
Site directed mutagenesis (SDM)
Technique that makes it possible to very precisely change part of an organism’s DNA.
Somatic mutation
The alteration of DNA that occurs after conception. Such changes can happen in any of the cells of the body except germline cells (sperm and ova) and so cannot be passed on to offspring. The alteration can cause various diseases including cancer.
Staphylococcus aureus
Bacterial species that is the cause of many different health problems in humans, including carbuncles, food-poisoning, and infections around medical devices and wounds.
 
Two-dimensional paper fraction technique
Method developed by Sanger and colleagues in 1965 to determine the sequence of nucleic acids. It used a combination of radioactive labelling and electrophoresis and laid the groundwork for sequencing RNA.
Tetranucelotides
A particular block of nucleotides made up of four base pairs (adenine (A) and thymine (T), cytosine (C) and guanine (G).
Viron
Virus particle.
Whole genome sequencing (WGS)
Laboratory process to determine the complete DNA sequence of an organism's genome.
X-ray crystallography
A technique used to determine the atomic and molecular structure of a crystal based on the use of X-rays.

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