Genes: engineering, disorders, screening

Genetic engineering and the genetic modification of organisms are regularly reported in the media. This makes the topic of interest to many students. It also provides an opportunity to explore the implications of scientific developments in a wider social context.

This list looks at both the biology involved in genetic engineering as well as the associated ethical issues.

Genetic disorders are considered and video clips show a clinician talking about gene therapy as a possible treatment.

The topic can also be used as an opportunity to revise and remind students about the structure of DNA and inheritance.

Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly. Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS, SSERC or recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to Health and Safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment. Further information is provided in our Health and Safety guidance.

Links and Resources

Quick Guide: Genetic Modification

This short publication is aimed at teachers who are not familiar with the topic of genetic modification. In a few short pages, it describes recent advances in genetic engineering. It is useful reading when planning the topic.

The leaflet includes information on:
• What is genetic modification
• Genetic modification and research into DNA.
• Genetic modification of organisms.
• Issues surrounding genetic modification

Whilst aimed at teachers, questions could be developed so that the leaflet could be used with students. For example, as part of a revision class into the topic.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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GM Food

These materials are designed to give a framework for students to debate about the development and use of genetically modified foods.

The instructions give some good advice on running debates in class, such as setting the ground rules and providing stimulus materials to prompt discussion. These guidelines and techniques are applicable to discussions on any topic.

If all the suggested activities are followed, the materials contain several lesson’s work. It may not be possible to devote this much time to the topic. If this is the case, you can tailor the materials to the specific learning outcomes that are to be achieved.

For example, when developing analysis and discussion skills, you may want to focus just onto the consideration of pros and cons. If understanding genetic modification is the learning outcome, then the information cards will be useful.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Genetic Testing

These materials can be used to achieve two learning outcomes.

They contain information sheets which describe the causes and symptoms of a range of genetic disorders. Using these alone will allow students to build up their knowledge of the topic.

There are also stimulus cards that relate to genetic screening and the use of personal biological information. Using these cards can help to develop skills in discussion, debate and consideration of ethical issues.

Students can be split into groups and given opposing points of view to argue before taking a whole class vote. For example, “Mortgage and loan companies should have access to your genetic records.” Give time for each group to develop their argument and then a time limit (say 2 minutes maximum) for them to deliver their argument to the class. Voting cards are provided so that the class can quickly show their views.

An alternative method could be to divide the class into groups, with them all working on the same issue. Groups are challenged to produce a set of guideline rules that determine when genetic screening technology can be used and how the information is treated.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Gene Therapy Timeline

These are  a series of short video clips. They are from an interview with a clinician involved in the treatment of cystic fibrosis sufferers. It is a good way of showing the work of a scientist.

Downloading the video clips help to make them available to students off-line, for example if they are loaded to the school network.

One activity could be to have students use the video clips to produce their own timeline showing the discovery of the cause of cystic fibrosis, through to possible gene therapies. It is worthwhile encouraging students to go back-and-forth, reviewing the video clips several times. Similarly, encourage them to make several drafts of their timeline as they refine their ideas. Drafting, reviewing and redrafting helps to clarify understanding and embed learning.

Another use of the clips could be to look at separate parts of research process. For example, it could be used to launch a discussion about the ethical use of animals in medical research (CF Mouse clip).

publication year
2010 to date

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