Applications


  • Animal Cloning 101

    In this interactive activity from the Dolan DNA Learning Center, learn about what clones are, the technique that makes cloning of organisms possible, and some animals that scientists have successfully cloned over the years. The activity explains why identical twins fit the definition of clones, details the different methods used to create the first cloned sheep and mice, and explains how cloned animals may one day be used to resolve human health issues.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • DNA Extraction

    In this interactive activity adapted from the University of Nebraska's Plant and Soil Science eLibrary, learn how DNA is extracted from leaf tissue for molecular techniques, such as PCR. As the animated sequence shows, DNA extraction involves collecting cells, physically breaking them open to release DNA from the nuclei, separating the DNA from other cellular components, and precipitating DNA out of solution for final extraction. The process utilizes basic laboratory tools, such as microfuge tubes, pipettes, and a centrifuge. Other items used in purifying DNA include buffer solution, a solvent such as chloroform, and ethanol.
    Grades: 9-12
  • DNA Separation Lab in the Classroom and in Real-World Research

    In this video produced by WGBH, high school and middle school students participating in the Amgen Biotech Experience make use of research equipment and techniques identical to those used in academia and industry to separate DNA. Data generated from this kind of experiment can help researchers analyze DNA and the genetic make-up of humans in an effort to understand how and why diseases develop that affect millions of people. This kind of research can also lead to the development of drugs for disease treatment and/or vaccines for disease prevention.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Electrophoresis and Gel Analysis

    Scientists use a variety of tools to analyze DNA. As this animation produced by WGBH and Digizyme, Inc. shows, gel electrophoresis enables them to determine the size of DNA molecules. Using this technique, together with other tools such as PCR reactions and restriction digestion, scientists can compare the molecular variations of two or more samples to determine such things as the identity of the DNA's source or the presence or absence of a particular gene or DNA fragment. This resource is part of the Biotechnology collection.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Engineering Biofuels

    This video segment adapted from KQED's QUEST profiles the work of Jay Keasling, a synthetic biologist experimenting with ways to produce a cleaner-burning fuel from biological matter, using genetically modified microorganisms. Keasling's approach involves engineering microbes to eat simple sugars found in plant matter and then excrete fuel. The video explains the two techniques that may enable Keasling to accomplish this: metabolic engineering and directed evolution. It also suggests that creating biofuels from plants may actually contribute to global warming rather than help combat it.

    Grades: 9-12
  • DNA Sequencing

    In this interactive activity adapted from the Dolan DNA Learning Center, examine the techniques geneticists use to read a sequence of DNA fragments. Sequencing enables scientists to analyze DNA and ultimately piece together the genomes of living organisms. The activity features Fred Sanger's original sequencing method, developed in 1977, and an automated version of Sanger's method that uses computers to read and interpret data. This newer technique provides a faster and more reliable means of sequencing.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Ethanol Biofuel

    Discover ethanol, a cleaner-burning fuel alternative to gasoline, and the efforts to produce it more efficiently in this video segment adapted from NOVA. Today, most ethanol in the United States is made from corn kernels. But converting corn into ethanol requires lots of energy as well as corn, which might otherwise be used to feed people and livestock. The video features research efforts to use less valuable plant matter, called cellulosic biomass, and microorganisms that may be able to accomplish the conversion from plant matter to fuel in a single step.

    Grades: 6-12
  • DNA Libraries

    In this interactive resource adapted from the Dolan DNA Learning Center, learn about DNA libraries, the tools scientists use to store and reproduce genetic information that they can later access for their research. The interactive resource features five different types of DNA libraries. Each gets its name from the type of molecule or organism used to host DNA segments of varying lengths.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Gene Cloning

    In this interactive activity adapted from the University of Nebraska's Library of Crop Technologies, learn how genes are cloned, or copied from one organism to another, using a multistep process that involves restriction enzymes and plasmids. The activity shows one bacterial cell "transforming" others with the addition of its DNA. The process naturally confers antibiotic resistance to the transformed bacteria, which in turn helps scientists isolate transformed bacteria from those that have not been transformed.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Epigenetics

    In this video segment adapted from NOVA scienceNOW, learn about the epigenome, a set of chemical switches that interact with DNA and affect how some genes are expressed. The epigenome tells cells what they will be and how they will function. Researchers in the field of epigenetics are studying mice as well as humans to determine how gene expression is affected by environmental factors and lifestyle choices. What they've learned is helping them explain differences that can appear over time in identical twins, and more broadly, in the general population.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • NOVA scienceNOW | Genetically Engineering the Avian Flu

    Examine the threat of a virus being spread from birds to humans, and then from humans to humans, in this video segment adapted from NOVA scienceNOW. It details the mechanisms viruses use to infect cells, and explores how mutations in a virus may change its virulence and how it can spread. It also looks at work being done with a re-created flu virus—from the deadly 1918 strain—that may help prevent future flu pandemics.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Growing Bacterial Cultures

    In this animation produced by WGBH and Digizyme, Inc., learn how researchers expand a population of transformed bacterial cells using solid and liquid culture media. The animation explains the role of ampicillin (an antibiotic) and arabinose (a sugar), which are used for selection in the growth media. It also demonstrates how the transformed bacteria are separated from nontransformed bacteria.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Genetic Engineering and Working with DNA

    The technique illustrated in this animation produced by WGBH and Digizyme, Inc., shows how scientists use natural processes and technological innovations to insert genes into loops of DNA called plasmids. Plasmids can then be introduced into bacterial or other cells, which will proceed to replicate the inserted genes or induce the cells to produce such valuable proteins as human insulin and growth hormone. This resource is part of the Biotechnology collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Making an Agarose Gel

    Tiny differences in DNA sequences can have profound effects on who we become and how our lives and health progress. Techniques like gel electrophoresis make it possible to visualize these variations. As this video adapted from the University of Leicester emphasizes, carefully following established procedures when creating the gel and setting up the electrophoresis apparatus is necessary to achieve accurate results.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction

    In this interactive activity adapted from the University of Nebraska's Library of Crop Technologies, learn the basic steps of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a technique used to produce short sections of DNA for analysis. In this technique, various components are combined in a microfuge tube and heated in a thermal cycler. The activity details the process, which results in thousands of identical copies of a DNA fragment. Note: The activity provides a simulation of the process. The characterizations of depicted components and their behaviors should not be taken literally.

    Grades: 9-12
  • NOVA scienceNOW | Killer Microbe

    Learn how one species of bacteria, which is harmless to most people, has evolved to become deadly to others in this video from NOVA scienceNOW. The bacterium, known as Acinetobacter baumannii in medical science, and as "Iraqibacter" to soldiers both in and returning from Iraq, has developed resistance to even the strongest of antibiotics. Iraqibacter's genome reveals that much of its resistance has been acquired from other bacteria species through a process known as horizontal gene transfer. The video also examines how scientists may be able to prevent the bacteria from infecting humans.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Personal DNA Testing

    In this video from NOVA scienceNOW, take a behind-the-scenes look at the process of personal DNA testing, and hear more about the innovative Personal Genome Project.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Longevity Genes

    What is the secret to a long life? Hear from scientists using biotechnology to analyze relationships between specific genes and longevity in this video from NOVA scienceNOW. While mutations in specific genes seem to provide some groups of people with built-in protection against age-related disorders such as diabetes and heart disease, the amount of food one eats may also promote longevity by triggering a family of genes called sirtuins into action. Researchers are looking to develop drugs that will ward off disease and thereby promote longer life.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Recombinant DNA Lab in the Classroom and in Real-World Research

    In this video produced by WGBH, high school and middle school students participating in the Amgen Biotech Experience make use of real-world research equipment and techniques to insert a recombinant DNA molecule into a bacterial cell. By using precision instruments and techniques, scientists can insert foreign genes into bacteria. Understanding how proteins behave inside cells can lead to a better understanding of human diseases such as Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Protein Purification Lab in the Classroom and in Real-World Research

    In this video produced by WGBH, high school and middle school students participating in the Amgen Biotech Experience use real-world research equipment and techniques to separate a genetically engineered protein from other molecules in a cell. As an industry research scientist explains, this process—called protein purification—is commonly used in research and development of disease therapies. The video also explores some of the reasons people have for choosing a career in science, including the rewards of knowing their work is helping others.
    Grades: 9-12

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