GLOSSARY OF TERMS

A - C

D - G

H - K

L - P

Q - Z

Autosomal

Of or pertaining to a chromosome that is not a “sex” chromosome. In humans, for instance, an autosomal disease is a disease that is associated with any of the chromosomes other than X and Y.

Bayh-Dole Act

Enacted in 1980, this congressional act allows, among other things, small businesses, not-for-profits, and U.S. universities to retain intellectual property rights over the products of federally funded research.

Bioart

A form of art that either uses, represents, or is somehow inspired by biological processes.

Biocommerce

A term used to indicate the ways that commerce and biomedical research inform each other. The term can be used in its most general sense, to help understand the general interrelation between political economy and the understanding and manipulation of life forms, or it can be used more specifically, to understand particular exchanges of biological materials for other goods of economic value.

BLAST or Basic Alignment Search Tool

This computational tool compares protein and nucleotide sequences and calculates the statistical significance of similarities. The information obtained from BLAST can be used to infer evolutionary relationships, identify members of specific gene families, or even infer gene functionality.

cDNA or Complementary DNA

Genetic sequences in eukaryotic organisms are almost never contiguous. A single genetic sequence can be dispersed across, or even between, chromosomes, thus incorporating many intervening sequences of DNA in its genomic sequence. Enzymes found in the cellular nucleus create a RNA copy of the gene in which all intervening sequences have been edited out, leaving only the contiguous coding sequence of the gene, ready for translation into a peptide chain (see RNA). A cDNA is a sequence of DNA synthesized from this RNA and thus contains only the coding region of the target gene.

Centrifuge

A machine that spins an object at high speeds around a fixed point. The machine comes in many different sizes and can spin at many different speeds. It is now ubiquitously used in biomedical research for removing precipitates or separating molecules on the basis of density, often over a gradient (see Gradient).

Chromosomes

A long ribbon-like material found in the nucleus of all eukaryotic cells. Chromosomes are made up of bound complexes of DNA and protein where the rough location of specific genes on the chromosome can be mapped using genetic and biochemical analyses.

Copyright

A set of exclusive rights intended to regulate the use and reproduction of written expressions, ideas, or information.

Creating vs. copying

Creating is often considered to be an active engagement with materials in order to give form to something novel. For instance, an artist creates a statue by chipping away marble. Copying is a form of production that reproduces the information found in an information-laden object in another information-laden object. The ease of copying and pasting digital information often makes it difficult to distinguish between creating and copying.

Cryonics

A branch of biomedicine dedicated to freezing and then thawing either parts of, or entire, animals and plants. The most controversial goal of cryonics is to freeze humans who cannot be sustained by current medical practices so that these individuals can be thawed in the future, when medical practices have improved. This goal, however, remains far from practicable. Still, developments in cryonics, and the branch of physics used to study the behavior of materials at very low temperatures, known as cryogenics, have made many of the techniques currently employed in biomedicine possible. Many recombinant DNA and cell culture techniques require the freezing and thawing of labile biological macromolecules, viruses, bacteria, and plant or animal cells (see Recombinant DNA).