This year, NC DNA Day Ambassadors will present four exciting modules.
In this module students learn the ins and outs of the human genome – what makes us each unique, how traits are inherited, and how Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) are helping to identify genes responsible for complex human diseases. Hands on activities include the Genetic Wheel (which shows how inherited traits make each of us incredibly unique) and a GWAS activity where students get to identify a genetic marker contributing to a human disease.
In this module, students will learn about the concept of ‘personalized’ medicine; how differences in our genes affect whether a drug treatment will be successful or have serious side effects, and how we can use this information to customize treatments for individual patients. Students will participate in a hands-on activity to further demonstrate how subtle genetic differences affect a patient’s response to medication.
In the forensics module, students learn how DNA is analyzed by forensic scientists in order to link a DNA sample to a particular individual. To do this, forensic scientists use powerful molecular biology techniques such as PCR, restriction digests and gel electrophoresis. To learn more about DNA and how it is used by forensic scientists, students will isolate their own DNA from saliva! Using their new-found understanding of DNA and forensics techniques, students will help solve the case of the missing mascot. Whodunit?
Our immune system is designed to protect us from any potential pathogen that may invade our bodies. How can our bodies anticipate and defend us from pathogens? How do vaccines protect us from infection? Antibodies are proteins that can recognize viruses and bacteria and help the body to fight infection. Like all proteins, antibodies are encoded in the DNA of our cells. The B cells in our body can generate 100,000,000,000 different antibodies capable of recognizing any type of pathogen that might invade our body. If the human genome only consists of 30,000 genes, how can we get this many different antibodies? This module will address these questions and will familiarize students with the following concepts from the North Carolina Standards of Competency: the immune response, genetics, cell specialization, and communication among cells in an organism.
Cystic Fibrosis is one of the most common childhood, inherited diseases resulting in a shortened life span and a range of debilitating symptoms—including chronic lung infections, and eventual lung failure. An estimated 1 in 22 people of European decent carry a mutated copy of this gene in their genome. The cystic fibrosis module explores this disease from a genetic perspective. Students will learn a real-world example of problems that can occur when DNA is mutated, as well as how the discovery of the mutated gene means hope for those suffering with this disease. Students will also learn how the researchers, doctors, and genetic counselors have discovered the gene, treated patients, and have helped people assess their risk of passing the disease on to their children. This module includes a discussion of genetic pedigrees, where students determine if an individual carries the mutated gene—hopefully leading to discussions about ethical issues involved with genetic testing.