General Terms and Concepts for Background Research in Biotechnology
- As everyone knows, DNA is the abbreviation for "deoxyribonucleic acid," the sturdy stuff in the shape of the double helix that encodes the "blueprint" of every organism. A good place to start for learning more about DNA is the Dolan DNA Learning Center website, at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Their site has many excellent materials; be sure to check out "DNA from the Beginning": http://www.dnaftb.org/dnaftb/.
Dolan DNA Learning Center home page: http://www.dnalc.org/home.html.
- Recombinant DNA is DNA that has been artificially created by combining genetic material from two or more sources. This link provides an introduction on how recombinant DNA is made and some of the uses for it: http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/R/RecombinantDNA.html.
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Sometimes called "molecular photocopying," this is the process used to amplify tiny amounts of DNA, producing accurate copies in sufficient amounts for identification by sequencing. The automated amplification process relies on a DNA-synthesizing enzyme that can work at elevated temperatures (Taq polymerase), derived from the bacterium Thermus aquaticus, which was discovered in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park.
The following link has a good introduction to the PCR method, as well as a bibliography for further research: http://opa.faseb.org/pdf/The%20Polymerase%20Chain%20Reaction.pdf .
This link has some interesting information on Thermus aquaticus: http://bioinfo.bact.wisc.edu/themicrobialworld/LAHT/b27.html.
- Genome/DNA sequencing is the process of "reading" the order of the DNA nucleotides (deoxy-adenosine, -cytosine, -guanosine and -thymidine—the building blocks of DNA). The Genome Sequencing page from the Department of Energy's Human Genome Project is a good place to start: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/faq/seqfacts.shtml.
- Transgenic crops Here is a good place to start for information on transgenic crops: what they are, how they are made, where they are planted, as well as a discussion of some of the risks and concerns associated with them: http://www.colostate.edu/programs/lifesciences/TransgenicCrops/.