EDUCATION: Genomes for All

Science  16 Feb 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5507, pp. 1163
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5507.1163d

To someone who's not a biologist, the human genome can seem both simple (it's just a string of four letters, right?) and dizzyingly complicated (what's a single-nucleotide polymorphism?). Fortunately, the Web is packed with good sites that explain the genome to the ignorant and informed alike.

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), for instance, has just released a multimedia-packed Web site called Exploring Our Molecular Selves. It includes a video documentary about the Human Genome Project, animated molecules and cells, an interactive timeline, and a new edition of NHGRI's “talking” genomics glossary (video clips of scientists explaining terms). It's also available as a free kit with a CD-ROM, poster, and video. And the Department of Energy's genome site recently unveiled an online poster where visitors can click on each of the 22 chromosomes (plus X and Y) and see the names of genetic diseases neatly lined up where they're located.

For genome news, check out the Genome News Network, billed as “an editorially independent publication” of Celera Genomics Inc. It offers genome tutorials plus articles about new human and plant genome research. There is also “SNP Shots,” which highlights those single-nucleotide polymorphisms—variations in a single letter of a sequence —that can serve as markers for disease.

For students who really want to get their hands dirty, check out the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's DNA Learning Center, which has a slew of sophisticated online genetics activities, including BioServers, which allow visitors to analyze sequence data. There are also animations explaining techniques such as PCR and DNA fingerprinting.

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