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This lesson plan is supplemented with material from

Human genome

February 12, 2001
Web posted at: 3:02 PM EST (2002 GMT)

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Students will be able to:

  • Define and discuss human genome and bio-ethics.
  • Evaluate the long-term consequences of gene mapping.


    Benchmarks for Science Literacy

  • High school students should know the similarity of human DNA sequences and the resulting similarity in cell chemistry and anatomy, which identify human beings as a single species. Faulty genes can cause body parts or systems to work poorly. Some genetic diseases appear only when an individual has inherited a certain faulty gene from both parties.

    Materials article, "A mystery unraveled"
    Internet access
    Dilemma of the new genetics

    Suggested time
    One class period

    1. Have students read the article, "A mystery unraveled" and ask the following:

  • What is the human genome? What was significant about the publication of the first human genome description? When did scientists predict that they would have this information? Why do you think they were able to break through the code earlier?

  • What two groups were in a race to crack the human code? Does it matter that one company is public and the other company is private? Explain your answer. So far, are their findings similar or different? What have they learned about the number of genes humans have? What have they learned about differences among people? Why is this significant? What is DNA? How will "cracking the genetic code" help scientists and doctors?

  • Dr. Francis Collins of the National Human Genome Institute said, "Federal legislation was needed to protect against the misuse of genetic information in the work place or by health insurance companies." How could this information be used unethically? What are some of the positive ways that the information can help? What do you think it means to customize drugs to individual genetic profiles? How will this help in diagnosing exactly what is wrong?

    2. Use the Dilemma of the new genetics
    Have students review the information and ask the following:

  • Is it a good idea for people to know they have been born with a gene that increases their chances of getting cancer or other serious diseases? Should health and life insurance companies be allowed to know whether the people they cover have this gene? Do you favor gene therapy, an approach that replaces defective genes with ones that will not cause a particular disease? How will having availability to this information impact your life and the lives of future generations?


    Modern genetics owes its beginnings to the study of a humble plant, the pea. Have students work in groups to research the history of genetics, and how we have arrived at the point of mapping and sequencing of the human genome. Break down the history into time periods or subtopics and have one group work on a different segment. Have each group present its information. As a class, combine the information and create an illustrated timeline of the study of genetics. Post the timeline in your classroom.


    Students can create a chart of the benefits to come from sequencing the human genome.


    1. Challenge your students to further investigate the ethical, legal, social and medical implications of the study of the human genome. Assist them in consulting the Internet and other resources to learn more about these issues and their positive and negative impact. Have each student write and present (on videotape, if possible) a one-or-two minute television commentary on the implications of human genome research, and whether or under what conditions it should continue. 2. If you use CNN NEWSROOM, the human genome was the top story on Monday, February 12, 2001. Show your class the video segment from the show and use NEWSROOM's discussion/activity.

    CNN Specials
    Blueprint of the Body

    Human Genome Update
    Division of Extramural Research (DER): HGP
    Celera - Welcome

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