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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.

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Biological techniques used to enhance products

Biotechnology (sometimes shortened to "biotech") is a field of applied biology that involves the use of living organisms to enhance crops, biofuels, household products, and medical treatments.  Modern biotechnology may involve the use of genetic engineering technology to permanently alter the genetic makeup of living organisms.

Materials for Biotechnology


Biology Animation Library - GeneChips

Description: GeneChips are the basis for large-scale genomic studies that analyze the action of tens of thousands of genes at once. View an animation of this laboratory technique.

Modeling DNA Hybridization

Description: A model of DNA hybridization showing how lab techniques, such as Southern blot and DNA microarrays, use base pairing between denatured DNA strands.


Engineering a Plasmid

Description: An overview on using plasmids

Fruit Flies in the Laboratory

Description: The fruit fly has the longest history in genetics and research out of all the model organisms.

Genetic Engineering

Description: An brief overview introducing core concepts of genetic engineering

Of Mice and Men

Description: The mouse is closely related to humans with a striking similarity to us in terms of anatomy, physiology and genetics. This makes the mouse an extremely useful model organism.

Should Animals Be Used In Research?

Description: Explore views for and against the use of animals in scientific research.

The African Clawed Frog

Description: While many species of amphibians have been studied by scientists, the one that stands out in genetics is the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis.

The New Genetics - 21st-Century Genetics

Description: Information from a science education booklet that explains systems biology, green fluorescent protein, genetic testing, privacy concerns, DNA forensics, biotechnology, patents, and careers

Tiny Fish, Big Splash: The Story of the Zebrafish

Description: The zebrafish (Danio rerio) has become a popular model organism only relatively recently. It is a tropical fish from the minnow family with a genetic structure surprisingly similar to ours.

Using Yeast In Biology

Description: Yeast is one of the simplest eukaryotic organisms but many essential cellular processes are the same in yeast and humans.

Why Use the Fly In Research?

Description: The fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is one of the most well understood of all the model organisms.

Why Use the Mouse In Research?

Description: Humans and mice share many common genetic features and by examining the physiology, anatomy and metabolism of a mouse, scientists can gain a valuable insight into how humans function.

Why Use the Worm In Research?

Description: While the fruit fly has a long history as a model organism, the nematode worm (Caenorhabditis elegans) has only been used as a model organism since the early 1960s.


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?

Interactive Tutorials

Applied Genetic Modifications

Description: An interactive tutorial for learning advanced laboratory techniques to create a transgenic plant

Bacterial ID Virtual Lab App

Description: Learn about the science and techniques used to identify different types of bacteria based on their DNA sequences. The techniques used in this lab are applicable in a wide variety of settings, including scientific research and forensic labs.

Designing Cancer Drugs: Development of Gleevec

Description: This interactive tutorial is a case study on how new medications are designed and created. Through the case study you will see how drug design exploits the structure of a protein that causes a disease, and identify the qualities of an effective drug.

DNA Mapping Web App

Description: DNA Mapping is a free web tool to locate and map enzyme cutting sites of your DNA sequence. You can enter your DNA sequence and it will help you to find the location of specific restriction enzymes. You can also use the web app to get the list of single, double or no cutting enzyme lists. It is a useful tool for both students and professionals who study or research in molecular biology or other biological related sciences. It makes your molecular cloning experiment simple and straightforward.

Supermodels of Science

Description: Scientists use many different organisms to study diseases in humans. Learn about "model organisms" that help us learn about and find treatments for human diseases.

Labs & Experiments

Bacterial Identification Virtual Lab

Description: A virtual lab teaching methods for identifying bacteria by their DNA

Bacterial Transformation

Description: A virtual laboratory experiment teaching concepts of genetic engineering

Build a Gel Electrophoresis Chamber (PDF 8,261.5 KB)

Description: Step-by-step instructions for building a gel electrophoresis chamber using inexpensive materials that are easily obtained from local hardware and electronics stores.

Colorful Electrophoresis

Description: A step by step guide to pouring and running a gel electrophoresis chamber using agar and food coloring from your kitchen pantry.

DNA Extraction

Description: A virtual DNA extraction laboratory experiment

Extracting DNA From Living Things

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

Following Gene Transfer by Conjugation in Bacteria

Description: Instructions for a gene transfer laboratory experiment

Gene Induction: Beta-galactosidase in E. coli

Description: A laboratory experiment demonstrating how genes are turned on and off in a cell

Mystery Yeast Mutation (PDF 381.48 KB)

Description: In this inquiry-based exploration students are asked to discover the nature of the mutation in a yeast strain by designing and carrying out their own experiments. Students are provided with a conundrum: the same mutant yeast strain can grow on one type of media plate but not another.

Restriction Analysis

Description: A DNA virtual laboratory experiment

Transgenic Fly Lab Introduction

Description: Create transgenic flies in a virtual laboratory

Working with Immobilised Enzymes or Microscopic Organisms

Description: Demonstrate the technique of immobilisation of biomaterial in an alginate matrix. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using immobilised material

Teacher Resources

How does genotyping work?

Description: Students learn about DNA extraction, PCR, restriction digest, and gel electrophoresis through a combination of virtual labs and class discussion. Students learn about the TAS2R38 gene which is involved in the ability to taste bitter foods. Students perform simple bioinformatics using primer sequences and allele sequences of TAS2R38.

Risks and Benefits (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson provides students with an opportunity to further their understanding of the risks and benefits associated with innovations in science and technology.

Spot the Difference - Zebrafish (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Step into the shoes of a genetic scientist and carry out a phenotype analysis with the model organism, zebrafish.

Technological Advances in Health (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Students will learn how technology influences human existence by examining the benefits and risks of different biotechnological advances.

What Can I Learn From Worms? Regeneration, Stem Cells, and Models (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A series of high quality lesson plans exploring a variety of topics including the cell cycle and the use of model species in biomedical research. You may need to register to view the lesson plans, but the plans and registration is free.

What Changes Our Minds? Toxicants, Exposure, and the Environment (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A series of lesson plans and laboratory experiments exploring the effects of environmental exposure to chemicals. You may need to register to view the plans, but the lesson plans and registration is free.

Who Owns Rights To Pharmacogenetic Information? (PDF 28.17 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson examines potential benefits, risks, and ethical concerns of designer drugs.



Description: Video interviews with scientists discussing biotechnology

BRAF: From Gene to Cancer Therapy

Description: This film tells the story of how DNA sequencing was used to identify that the gene BRAF is commonly mutated in malignant melanoma, and how this has led to the development of a targeted drug against the mutation.

The Pathway to Genomic Medicine

Description: Richard Gibbs, PhD, explains genomic medicine and its role in and relationship to genetic research, and outlines how technology and the study of genetics is transforming medicine.

The Structures of Life

Description: This engaging video shows how structural biology gives insight into health, disease, and drug design.