Glossary

A running list of vocab words from our blog posts

March 17, 2021

Cell: At a minimum, a cell is made of a membrane (you can think of a membrane like the plastic part of an inflated balloon) that contains what the cell needs to survive and replicate itself.

DNA: The molecule that’s used by living things for long-term storage of genetic information.

Gene: “Gene” is actually a very tricky word to define! Nowadays, it usually means the sequence that instructs a cell to make a certain product.

Genome: The complete set of all genes in a living thing.

Genetic privacy: The idea that personal genetic information must be protected from unauthorized access or use.

Molecular tests: When referring to COVID-19 tests, a test that works by detecting the genetic code of the virus.

PCR (polymerase chain reaction): A technique that makes very many copies of a piece of DNA.

Primer: A small piece of DNA that provides a starting point for copying another piece of DNA.

Reverse Transcription: The process of converting RNA into DNA. The opposite process (converting DNA to RNA) is called transcription.

RNA: Like DNA, RNA can provide instructions for making certain products. But it can also do more, like help cells carry out chemical reactions.

Sequence: A series of specific molecules of DNA or RNA that make up a longer strand.

Sequencing: Recording the specific molecules that make up a strand of DNA or RNA.

Transcription: The process of converting DNA into RNA. The opposite process (converting RNA to DNA) is called reverse transcription.

Virus: Genetic material protected by an outer shell that enters living cells in order to replicate itself.