Allison Loudermilk

The Talking Genetics Glossary: A Gentle Way to Get to Know A, C, G and T

Can't quite picture what a telomere looks like? The talking glossary of genetic terms is happy to help you out. (Image courtesy National Human Genome Research Institute)

I'm not usually one for "Wow, look at this neat site" blog posts, but there's a cool new talking(!) genetics glossary in town, compliments of the National Human Genome Research Institute. If you can't remember the various types of RNA (messenger, transport and ribosomal, thank you, glossary) or you use genotype or phenotype interchangeably, then, by all means, check it out. If you're more of a genetics expert like GenomeBoy or the folks at GeneForum, don't stop reading. You may want to steer your less learned friends to this site.

The glossary takes you from the ACGT bases all the way to zebrafish (a cheap, hardy fish that geneticists dig for its transparent embryo). The person gently walking you through whichever term you click on also happens to be a big dog in the relevant area. For example the zebrafish guy, Dr.Shawn Burgess, has his own lab where he and his fellow lab rats study how developmental processes and human genetic disease are intertwined. Fun fact: A few years ago, I served on a working group with Lawrence Brody, the gentleman who defines a bunch of the basic terms. (And by "served," I mean doggedly scribbled what he and the other scientists in the room were saying.)

In addition to the definition, the site gives you the correct pronunciation, which is nice for someone like me who may rearrange words for a living but sometimes gets creative when pronouncing them. Tea-la-meer instead of tell-oh-meer. Really, people? Animations, illustrations and a couple of quizzes round out the genetic educational fun. Feel free to take the quizzes and report back.

Or shoot on over to HowStuffWorks.com to get the inside dope on genes: How Gene Doping Works How can you tell if athletes alter their genes? How Gene Banks Work Can genetically modified mosquitoes wipe out malaria? Could we clone our organs to be used in a transplant?