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The GeneEd website is scheduled to be retired on March 31, 2019. Selected GeneEd content will be transferred to Genetics Home Reference, another online resource from the National Library of Medicine.

We’re interested in feedback from regular users of GeneEd as we determine how best to make this transition. Please share your thoughts in a brief survey.

DNA, Genes, Chromosomes

DNA, Genes, Chromosomes

The building blocks of inheritance

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a biomolecule that holds the blueprint for how living organisms are built.  DNA is made out of two long, twisted strands that contain complementary genetic information (like a picture and its negative). A gene is a segment of DNA that is passed down from parents to children and confers a trait to the offspring. Genes are organized and packaged in units called “chromosomes.”  Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. One set of chromosomes for each pair comes from a person’s mother, and the other set of chromosomes comes from the father.

Materials for DNA, Genes, Chromosomes


3-D Animations of the Cell, Organelles, and DNA

Description: These short animations focus individually on the cell and its organelles. Collectively, they form a thirteen-part 3-D tour that starts at the cell and ends at DNA.

Discovery of DNA

Description: An interactive timeline of scientific discoveries

DNA Interactive

Description: Animations, interactive tutorials, and practice problems that teach a range of genetic concepts

DNA is a Structure that Encodes Biological Information

Description: This illustrated article and animation explains DNA, its components, and how it is packaged in a cell.

From Cell to DNA

Description: This animation takes you through a tour of a typical human cell, moving from larger to smaller cell structures (i.e., from nucleus to chromosomes to DNA strands and their bases).

The Animated Genome

Description: An engaging 5 minute film about DNA and the human genome that is sure to please.

Tour the Basics

Description: Interactive tutorials on DNA, genes, chromosomes, protein, heredity, and traits

Zoom in on Your Genome

Description: This animation shows where and how the human genome is stored within our cells.



Description: General information on genes

Genetics of Development

Description: A video and online textbook chapter examining how molecules work to form an organism

Revealing DNA as the Molecule of Life

Description: How was DNA discovered to be the carrier of genetic information? Read on to find out...

The Discovery of DNA

Description: How was DNA first discovered and who discovered it? Read on to find out...

The New Genetics - Glossary of Genetic Terms

Description: A glossary of genetic terms

The New Genetics - How Genes Work

Description: Information from a science education booklet explaining basic genetic concepts including DNA, RNA, transcription, RNA splicing, translation, ribosomes, antibiotics, genetic diseases, and gene chips

The New Genetics - RNA and DNA Revealed

Description: Information from a science education booklet explaining microRNAs, RNAi, epigenetics, telomeres, mtDNA, and recombinant DNA

What Does DNA Do?

Description: The DNA code contains instructions needed to make the proteins and molecules essential for our growth, development and health.

What is a Chromosome?

Description: Chromosomes are bundles of tightly coiled DNA, located, in pairs, within the nucleus of almost every cell in our body. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes.

What is a Gene?

Description: This article is written in easy to understand language. It explains genetics and the significance of genes in human health and disease.

What is a Genome?

Description: A genome is an organism’s complete set of genetic instructions. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build that organism and allow it to grow and develop.

What is DNA?

Description: DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid is a long molecule that contains our unique genetic code. Like a recipe book it holds the instructions for making all the proteins in our bodies.

What is Genetic Variation?

Description: Genetic variation is a term used to describe the variation in the DNA sequence in each of our genomes. Genetic variation is what makes us all unique, whether in terms of hair color, skin color or even the shape of our faces.


Gene Expression - The Basics

Description: Express yourself through your genes! See if you can generate and collect three types of protein, then move on to explore the factors that affect protein synthesis in a cell.

Gene Machine - The Lac Operon

Description: Build a gene network! The lac operon is a set of genes which are responsible for the metabolism of lactose in some bacterial cells. Explore the effects of mutations within the lac operon by adding or removing genes from the DNA.


Description: Game-like software that teaches concepts of heredity, meiosis and the pathway from DNA to trait


Description: This game combines the challenge of a scavenger hunt with the human genome. It allows anyone to create up to 20 walkable paths that explore the human genome with over 150 challenging questions, a leaderboard and themed paths. GenomeCache combines clues, fun facts and trivia questions to create an engaging learning experience.

Modern Genetics

Description: Students breed dragons to learn concepts of modern genetics

Molecular Motors

Description: Discover what controls how fast tiny molecular motors in our body pull through a single strand of DNA. How hard can the motor pull in a tug of war with the optical tweezers? Discover what helps it pull harder. Do all molecular motors behave the same?

Optical Tweezers and Applications

Description: Did you ever imagine that you can use light to move a microscopic plastic bead? Explore the forces on the bead or slow time to see the interaction with the lasers electric field. Use the optical tweezers to manipulate a single strand of DNA and explore the physics of tiny molecular motors. Can you get the DNA completely straight or stop the molecular motor?

Stretching DNA

Description: Explore stretching just a single strand of DNA using optical tweezers or fluid flow. Experiment with the forces involved and measure the relationship between the stretched DNA length and the force required to keep it stretched. Is DNA more like a rope or like a spring?

The Gene Scene

Description: Games and activities on DNA, genes, cloning, genetic careers, and more

The New Genetics Interactive Puzzle

Description: A genetic concepts crossword puzzle.

Interactive Tutorials

A Gene is Made of DNA

Description: An interactive Web site exploring basic concepts of genes through historical discovery

Bacteria and Viruses Have DNA Too

Description: An interactive Web site exploring basic concepts of DNA through historical discovery

DNA and Proteins are Key Molecules of the Cell Nucleus

Description: An interactive Web site exploring basic concepts of DNA through historical discovery

Genes Are Real Things

Description: An interactive Web site exploring basic concepts of cells and genes through historical discovery

Genes Come in Pairs

Description: An interactive Web site exploring basic principles of traits and genes through Mendel's experiments

Heredity - Genetics

Description: Video and practice problems teaching core concepts of genetics, including DNA replication, transcription, translation, and genetic inheritance

Molecules App

Description: An app that allows you to view three-dimensional renderings of molecules and manipulate them using your fingers.

One Gene Makes One Protein

Description: An interactive Web site exploring basic concepts of DNA and proteins through historical discovery

The Gene Scene

Description: Games and activities on DNA, genes, cloning, genetic careers, and more

Tree of life - Zooming Into Biomolecules

Description: Zoom down from living things we see with our eyes to the macromolecules from which they are made. Learn about the molecular structure of these macromolecules and where examples of these molecules are located in cells.

Labs & Experiments

DNA Extraction

Description: A virtual DNA extraction laboratory experiment

DNA the Easy Way and Gram Stain Without the Mess

Description: This demonstration can be used to help students visualize DNA by lysing (breaking open) bacterial cells on a slide and stringing up the DNA with a toothpick in less than one minute.

Do Some Genes Maintain More Than One Common Allele in a Population?

Description: An advanced virtual laboratory experiment exploring why multiple versions of a gene exist within a population.

Extracting DNA From Living Things

Description: A laboratory experiment using simple equipment and chemicals to extract DNA from plants and other materials

Restriction Analysis

Description: A DNA virtual laboratory experiment

Teacher Resources

cK-12 Foundation - Teachers

Description: Ck-12 Foundation offers life-science simulations to immerse students in an interactive learning experience, practice problems, free full-text FlexBook Textbooks, tools for leading group discussions and more.

DNA Repair - Exploring the 2015 Nobel Prize Winning work of two NC scientists (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This University of North Carolina teaching module explores several built-in protection mechanisms our bodies use to prevent and repair damage to DNA. In 2015, Dr. Aziz Sancar from UNC Chapel Hill and Dr. Paul Modrich from Duke University were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on understanding DNA repair. Students will extract their own DNA from saliva and analyze REAL data from Dr. Sancars Nobel-winning research.

Extracting DNA (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this lesson, students develop understanding of DNA by modeling the process of DNA extraction.

Genetic Timeline (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A lesson plan highlighting key discoveries that have led to our present understanding of the human genome

Genomics and Human Identity (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Bring genomics to life for your high school students with this lesson plan. The lessons encourage hands-on, inquiry-based learning and include genomic concepts and research projects.

How to Read a Scientific Paper (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This guide is intended for advanced high school students and college undergraduates who are interested in working on independent research projects.

Inside/Outside the Human Genome Project (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this cooperative learning activity for grades 6-8, students combine a jigsaw learning technique with an inside/outside review game to learn about DNA, genes, chromosomes and the Human Genome Project.

MIT OpenCourseWare

Description: MIT departments and degree programs post course information with a syllabus, lecture notes, reading assignments, and additional learning exercises and exams. The site offers a special educator portal to help teachers find specific content for use in their classes.

PBS LearningMedia

Description: A Web site providing teachers with strategies, tools, and professional development resources for incorporating digital learning in the classroom

Power My Learning

Description: A web-based platform with online learning activities for K-12 students, parents, and educators. You will need to register to use the site, but registration is free.

Scitable Faculty Resources

Description: The Scitable faculty resource pages include a tool for creating virtual classrooms, the Scitable Faculty Discussion Group, and a variety of instructive courses for educators.

Ten Captivating Tools for the DNA Classroom

Description: Whether you are searching for something for DNA Day, looking for a little spice in your genetics unit, or offering resources to parents, students or colleagues - these ten perennial favorites are sure to please. Bookmark this for year-round use.


50 Years of DNA - From Double Helix to Health, A Celebration of the Genome

Description: This webcast was created as a part of the April 2003 celebration of the completion of the Human Genome Project. It includes an interview with Dr. James Watson and Dr. Francis Collins.

Everything You Need To Know About Getting DNA Out of Strawberries

Description: In this video Drs. Eric Green and Carla Easter from the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health demonstrate how to extract DNA from strawberries using everyday household items. An English and Spanish How-To poster is available for download.

Genetics of Development

Description: A video and online textbook chapter examining how molecules work to form an organism

Molecular Basis of Heredity: Part 1. Nucleic Acids

Description: Discover the fundamentals of DNA, RNA, nucleic acids and their roles within cells, with Raye Lynn Alford, PhD.

Molecular Basis of Heredity: Part 2. Genomes

Description: Raye Lynn Alford, PhD, explains the structures and functions of genomes, and discusses how chromosomal changes lead to certain genetic disorders.

Molecular Basis of Heredity: Part 3. Genetic Variation

Description: Join Raye Lynn Alford, PhD, as she explains the molecular basis of genetic variation, including mechanisms and types of DNA sequence variations, and patterns of inheritance of genetic disorders.

The Genome Era - What it Means to You

Description: The director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, describes the genomic research adventure that is leading to new and more precise ways to diagnose, treat and prevent common and rare genetic diseases. A variety of careers in genomics is presented.

The Power of Comparison: Unleashing the Dog Genome

Description: Dr. Elaine Ostrander of the National Human Genome Research Institute explains how comparing genomes between species opens the door to understanding the human genome.