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GENE FAMILIES: Groups of closely related genes that make similar products.

GENE GUN - a method for introducing foreign particles or genes into cells. The accelerating particles have a diameter sufficiently small to penetrate the surface membranes and be retained in a preselected cell without killing the cell. The idea is for the gene to be functionally incorporated into the interior of the cell without disrupting normal gene sequences (See GENE THERAPY). (IP)

GENE KNOCKOUT : An organism that has been genetically modified so that one gene is knocked out, or dysfunctional, for use in biomedical research of gene function. (DM)

GENE PATENTING: There has been controversy over the issuance of patents to nucleic acid sequences, and article 4 of the Universal Declaration on the Human genome and Human Rights, approved by all members of UNESCO in 1997 states "The genome in its natural state shall not be patented". In considering DNA as an assert or a property the following three arguments have been raised in a Nuffield Bioethics Council Report. 1. “Patents that assert rights over DNA sequences, in particular human DNA sequences, should not be allowed by virtue of the special status or nature of DNA. 2. Patents that assert rights over DNA sequences should not be allowd because they do not meet the legal criteria for patenting. 3. patents that assert rights over DNA sequences should not be allowed by virtue of the possible deleterious consequences for healthcare and research related to healthcare.” (JA, DM)


GENE POOL: The sum total of all the different GENES (q.v.) and forms of genes (ALLELES (q.v.)) found in a POPULATION (q.v.) or other collection of organisms within a SPECIES (q.v.). So the gene pool contains all the genetic variation found among the organisms in question. (MR)


GENE PRODUCT: The biochemical material, either RNA or protein, made by a gene. The amount of gene product is used to measure how active a gene is; abnormal amounts can be correlated with disease-causing genes. (DM)

GENE THERAPY: Used without qualification means the genetic modification of body cells of an individual patient, directed to alleviating disease in that patient. See somatic gene therapy and germ line gene therapy. (See IN UTERO GENE THERAPY, SOMATIC-CELL GENE THERAPY) (JA)



GENE TRANSFER refers to the spread of genetic material through natural genetic mechanisms. Little is known about the frequency of genetic exchange in Nature. Recent concerns are about outcrossing to wild varieties of genetically engineered plants and risk of transfer of foreign DNA across to insects, birds and mammals which normally consume some parts of the genetically modified organism and its long-term impact on those species (see GMOs) (IP)

GENERA: Plural term for genus. (See GENUS).

GENERAL ADAPTATION SYNDROME (GAS): was first described by Canadian physician Hans Selye in 1956 and describes the link between stress (whether physical or psychological) and nervous-hormonal activation resulting in the release of adrenaline (also called the fight-or-flight reaction), cortisol and other hormones involved in the emergency feedback loop to changing environmental influences. Since the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is involved in the homeostatic adaptation to environmental and metabolic change, stress is necessary for continued adaptation, and in non-threatening situations is also the spice of life. Stress is harmful only when it's prolonged and ineffective where it can lead to degenerative conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Biologically, the essential thing is that the body must be prepared for changing circumstances by the initiation of an appropriate GAS response (see DISEASES OF ADAPTATION, DISTRESS, EUSTRESS, POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER, STRESS). (IP)



GENERAL AGREEMENT ON TRADE AND TARIFFS: See GATT.

GENERAL THEORY OF ADAPTATION: See STRESS.

GENERATION: 1. Production, reproduction; the process of bringing something into being (e.g. the conception of offspring). 2. People in a social demographic having approximately the same age, perhaps also correlating with a certain outlook or attitude (e.g. the grandparent's generation). 3. A successive period in the reproductive evolution of a family lineage (e.g. about 35 years for humans). A generation is best measured not as the age of first breeding, but as the average age of the active parents in a population. (See GENERATION GAP, GENESIS) (MP)

GENERATION GAP: 1. The average length of time between successive generations of a population. 2. Perceived differences in the attitudes, opinions, behaviors and concerns of successive generations. The generation gap is created by shifts in philosophical frame of reference between age groups which have grown up in divergent avenues of social, cultural and technological evolution. This age barrier may be broken down using communication, curiosity and tolerance, and the avoidance of age-related habitual patterns and ingrained belief systems. (See GENERATION) (MP)

GENERALIZATIONS: Applicability to other broader situations, beyond the specific research design, and across a diversity of different systems. Generality or a generalization implies a common theme or average measure of similarity across a range of subjects, and indicates the breadth of relevance of certain processes, philosophical ideas or research. ‘General knowledge’ refers to common wide-ranging knowledge, but with facts readily accessible in academic literature and the internet, today a ‘generalized’ education can better equip the policy-maker or environmental manager for the broad and integrated global problem-solving required for our future survival and wellbeing. (See MULTIDISCIPLINARY, OVERSPECIALIZATION) (MP)


GENERIC DRUGS: 1. where the name of a particular drug also describes its chemistry; such as penicillin or tetracycline 2. pertaining to a substance, product or drug that is no longer protected by trademark and where this product, identical or closely related to the original, is placed on the market by a manufacturer other than the holder of the original patent. No new clinical trials are required by the new supplier as it is assumed that the generic drug is safe and effective; thus, typically, these drugs cost a fraction of the original price. Generic drugs are also called "me-too" drugs (Latin genus kind). (IP)

GENESIS: (Greek: gignesthai 'to be born') 1. Origin, first beginning. 2. The first book in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible of the Judeo-Christian faiths. The Book of Genesis begins with divine creation (Genesis 1.1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"), including the first humans Adam and Eve, created in God's image but banished from the Garden of Eden for eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (See OLD TESTAMENT, ORIGINAL SIN, TORAH) (MP + JA)

GENETIC: Connected with the genetic system of heredity, e.g. Genes. (JA)

GENETIC ABNORMALITY: Due to mutation, a gene/or a protein is altered in such a way that the gene expression is altered and the protein is unable to function normally. There are about 5,700 known genetic abnormality and genetic testing can reveal the disorder in about 300 cases. (JA)

GENETIC ALGORITHMS: Genetic or evolutionary algorithms, pioneered by John Holland, are sets of computer instructions which emulate aspects of evolution and genetic biology such as self-organization, replication, heredity and adaptation to their environment. Genetic algorithms form the basis of programming which emulates life as part of the ‘bottom up’ approach to artificial life, along with cellular automata and artificial neural networks. (See ALGORITHM, ARTIFICIAL LIFE, ARTIFICIAL NEURAL NETWORKS, CELLULAR AUTOMATA,) (MP)

GENETIC CODE: The sequence of nucleotides, or base pairs in DNA, coded in triplets along the mRNA, which determines the sequence of amino acids in protein synthesis (e.g. UGC = cystine). The DNA sequence of a gene can be used to predict the mRNA sequence, and the genetic code can in turn be used to predict the amino acid sequence. Universal, common in all living organisms. (DM, JA)

GENETIC CONSULTATION: The purpose of genetic consultation is to deal with issues that relate to the suitability of the test for caring an individual person’s concern, such as the interpretation of the result and to arrange a clinical referral, should that prove necessary, proving appropriate professional support in the interim. The necessary range and extent of genetic consultation will vary for each genetic test. It should include taking a family history and those elements of genetic counseling which embody the imparting of accurate information. Also discussion of reproductive options where relevant and management plans for the patient and the family in a sensitive, objective and "non directive " way. (JA)

GENETIC COUNSELING: A process of consultation by which information is imparted to individuals or families affected by or at risk of a genetic disorder. It includes information on the nature of the disorder; the size and extent of genetic risks, the options, including genetic testing, that may help clarify the risks; the available preventive and therapeutic measures and the provision of psychological, social and practical support. In the context of genetic testing it may include responding to the concerns of individuals referred and their families, discussing the consequences of a test and enabling them to choose the optimal decision for themselves but not determining a particular course of action. (JA)

GENETIC DETERMINISM: Doctrine or theory that the genetic make-up of an individual absolutely characterises (i.e. determines) its appearance (i.e. PHENOTYPE (q.v.)). Strictly, the theory is entirely invalid in that a sufficient change in the environment (e.g. the absence of any water) is sufficient to prevent the phenotype being observed (in the case of the absence of water, because the organism will have died). However, the theory is of use in that certain characteristics, e.g. natural iris colour in humans, have a much stronger genetic component to them than do certain other characteristics, e.g. language spoken. At the same time, certain phenotypes which might be thought to be 'genetically determined' , e.g. the 'genetic disease' of PHENYLKETONURIA (q.v.), can be almost entirely avoided by appropriate changes in the environment, i.e. childhood diet in the case of phenylketonuria. (MR)

GENETIC DIAGNOSIS: See PREIMPLANTATION GENETIC DIAGNOSIS, PRENATAL DIAGNOSIS.


GENETIC DISEASE: Afflictions which are due to defects in the genetic endowment of a person. They may be the direct consequences of defects in single genes; or in whole chromosomes, part of which may be lost, duplicated or misplaced; or due to the interaction of multiple genes and external factors in fetal development. Later in life such interactions appear to be the basis of many of the common serious disorders, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. (see GENETIC DISORDER, DISORDER GENETIC) (JA)

GENETIC DISORDER: A malfunction or a disability caused due to a genetic factor, which results in the manifestation of human diseases. E.g. a). phenylketoneuria b). Congenital hypothyroidism c). Haemoglobinopathy. See GENETIC TESTING OF NEW BORNS, MONOGENIC DISORDER, MULTI FACTORIAL DISORDERS. (JA)


GENETIC DIVERSITY: One of the three diversities in the biosphere (habitat diversity, biodiversity, genetic diversity) Indicates the enormous variety of genes - DNA sequence- found in organisms In humans there are about 100,000 genes and in plants 80,000 genes. Totally about 10 to the power of 9. (JA, IP)

GENETIC ENGINEERING: Altering the genetic composition of a living organism by technological means based on recombinant DNA technology. This can be altering the gene sequence, addition, substitution, deletion, avoids natural mating and occurrence of natural genetic recombination during meiosis. Has contributed to the understanding of genetic diversity useful in the conservation for plants, animals and microorganisms. An umbrella term, powerful tool for manipulating genetic material of any organism for making GMOs, gene therapy. Useful in biotechnological industry. Also known as targeted genetics, recombinant DNA, manipulation (see BIOTECH, BIOTECHNOLOGY). (DM, JA)


GENETIC ENGINEERING APPROVAL COMMITTEE (GEAC) A Competent authority of the Department of Environment, Forest and Wildlife for approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganism and recombinant in research and industrial production from the environmental angle. The committee shall also be responsible for approval or proposals relating to the release of genetically engineered organism and products into the environment including experimental field trials. (JA)

GENETIC EPIDEMIOLOGY: the study of the distribution of disease in groups of relatives and ethnic populations and the identification of the genes responsible. Many diseases have both genetic and environmental components and a particular genetic defect may increase a person’s susceptibility to disease and its expression may, in turn, be dependent on environmental and lifestyle factors. Genetic epidemiologists require to study large populations, especially genetically and culturally similar ones, in order to identify the susceptibility genes for common disease states (see EPIDEMIOLOGY, GENETIC SUSCEPTIBILITY). (IP)



GENETIC FREEDOM: Phrase coined by Darryl Macer in 1990. The freedom to bring about the conception of a child with any characters, be they good or bad, desired or undesired. Genetic freedom should be protected from influences that limit choices, within the framework of a healthy life. (DM)

GENETIC HAEMOCHROMATOSIS: is a genetic condition, where recessive condition the gene defects identified occur relatively frequently in the population at large but the number of individuals affected with clinical symptoms is low since many people with the gene defect do not go on to develop the condition. (JA)


GENETIC INFORMATION: A person’s genetic information can be obtained by genetic testing, physical examination, from the records of past medical interventions/treatments and by a person’s genetic status. Officials in health care profession, in health care institutions, researchers, employers, insurance company, legal/law enforcement authorities have access to genetic information of a person. (JA)

GENETIC INTERVENTION: General term for the modification of inheritable characteristics of individuals or populations through various social mechanisms and/or biomedical technologies. (DM)

GENETIC LINKAGE MAP: A map of the relative positions of genetic loci on a chromosome, determined on the basis of how often the loci are inherited together. Distance is measured in centimorgans. (DM)

GENETIC MATERIAL: The genetic material contain in a nucleus of an organism, commonly referred to as the Genome where the DNA contains the blue print for genotypic and phenotypic expression of an organism. The chromosome contains the DNA and the DNA the genes. The complex set up which is concerned with heredity. (JA)

GENETIC MODIFICATION: Modifying the genetic makeup of an organism with direct transfer of a foreign gene. (JA+PW)

GENETIC REGISTER: A computer based system of storage of genetic information of people, subject to Data Protection Act. Access restriction to only those specifically responsible for the register. (JA)

GENETIC SCREENING: Analysis of a cohort of genotypes for the presence or absence of a particular DNA sequence, or gene. To examine total population to assess the prevalence, pattern of disease spread of a genetic disease. (DM, JA)


GENETIC STATUS: It indicates the genetic condition of a person whether there are any genetic abnormality in a person. Three types of genetic status may be recognized. (i) a monogenetic condition in which a gene if present or absent may create a genetic condition which may be expressed or presymptomatic in nature. (ii) When a trait is controlled by one or more genes different types of environmental stimuli may induce difference gene response. E.g a mutation which lacks enough power to induce a phenotypic expression. (iii) a person may carry one defective copy of a gene but the healthy copy of a gene may dominate and the person may not suffer any ill effect. (JA)

GENETIC SUSCEPTIBILITY: A genetic risk for developing a disease. The disease may be simple or complex, and the chance of actually getting the condition or disease ranges from 1-100% between genes and individuals. (DM)


GENETIC TEST: Genetic testing is a part of diagnosis in pediatric practice. Tests that are carried out to detect the presence or absence of, or change in, a particular gene or chromosome, or a change in a gene product, in relation to a genetic disorder. There are a number of tests such as Diagnostic Genetic Testing, Presymptomatic Genetic Testing, Susceptibility Testing and Carrier Testing. (JA)

GENETIC TESTING OF NEW BORNS: New born human beings are being tested in most industrialised countries, for the following genetic disorders: a).phenylketoneuria, b) Congenital hypothyroidism, c) Haemoglobinopathy, d) Galacctosemia, e) Maple syrup urine disorder, f) Haemocysteinuria, g) Biotinidase dieficiency, h) Tyrosinemia, and recently even for i) Cystic fibrosis. The following four issues need to be considered: Screening is to done only when there is future benefit to the new born. When a diagnosis is confirmed, facilities for further treatment should be made possible. Parental guidance is recommended. (JA)



GENETIC THERAPY: See GENE THERAPY.

GENETIC TRANSFER: Artificial transfer of gene, unrelated/synthetic DNA into another species. (JA)

GENETIC VARIATION: The way in which different organisms within a species (or between species) have different DNA sequences, and allelic variation in their genes. (DM)

GENETIC MODIFICATION: The process of transfer of genes across organisms irrespective of taxonomic distinctions e.g. from Plant to animals- microorganism- human beings. (DM)

GENETICS: A branch of biology dealing with genes, variations and heredity. Gregor Mendel is considered the father of Genetics. The science of the inheritance of characteristics. The term 'genetics' was coined by William Bateson in 1905, five years after Mendel's pioneering work of the 1860s was rediscovered. (JA+MR)


GMOs: Genetically modified organism - containing foreign genes, Transgenic organisms, currently called Living Modified organisms (LMOs) (JA)

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS: See GMOs.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED VIRUS: Newly-developed strains of virus created by genetic engineering for specialized purposes such as biological control. For example, Australian research has genetically modified strains of virus to interfere with the ova of introduced mice and rabbits to render them sterile. New Zealand researchers meanwhile have designed a similar virus targeting possums, which are native to Australia. Ethical and ecological concerns include the potential for trans-national spread, potential impacts on related endemic mammals, and the grave avenue of ethno-terrorism and genetically-specific bioweapons. (MP)

GENETICS The study of the patterns of inheritance of specific traits. Study of genetic systems, e.g. Gene, chromosomes, nucleus. (DM, JA)

GENETHICS a recombinant word that splices genetics and ethics to capture their conceptual inseparability. First used by David Suzuki, a Canadian professor of genetics and public educator. (IP)

GENEVA CONVENTIONS: The 1949 Geneva Conventions I-IV provide legal codes on the humane care and treatment of: Convention I - sick and wounded combatants, irrespective of race, religion or politics; Convention II - shipwrecked or wounded at sea; Convention III - prisoners of war, not to be used as hostages, labor, experimental subjects or torture; and Convention IV - protections and rights for civilians during war. The Geneva Conventions were followed up by Geneva Convention Protocols I and II in 1977. These international laws will have their teeth strengthened by international war law institutions such as the International Criminal Court. (See GENEVA PROTOCOLS, HAGUE CONVENTIONS, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT, INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW) (MP)

GENEVA PROTOCOLS: The 1977 Geneva Convention Protocols I and II were an important addition to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Protocol I refers to limits to the rights of parties to choose the means of warfare, prohibition of weapons causing superfluous suffering, and prohibition of means of warfare which cause widespread or long-term damage to the natural environment. Protocol II includes humane treatment of victims of non-international armed conflicts. (See GENEVA CONVENTIONS, HAGUE CONVENTIONS) (MP)


GENITALS: The reproductive areas and organs of animals. (DM)

GENITAL MUTILATION: See FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION.

GENOCENTRISM the belief that the gene is at the center of all things. (IP)

GENOCIDE: Genocide is any political or military act committed with the intent of partially or wholly destroying a particular ethnic, cultural, religious or national population. It includes killing members of the group, causing serious mental/bodily harm, inflicting destructive conditions for life, imposing birth-prevention measures or forcibly transferring children on the basis of their race. It was the first of the war crimes to attract international legal condemnation with the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Conventional warfare and the use of force between nations are not necessarily genocide when directed at a political state rather than a specific racial or cultural group. (See CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, ETHNIC CLEANSING, GENEVA CONVENTIONS, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT, WAR CRIMES) (MP)



GENOME: All the genetic material in the chromosomes of a particular organism; its size is generally given as its total number of base pairs. Weighs about 200th billionth of a gram in humans. (JA)

GENOME PROJECTS: Research and technology development efforts aimed at mapping and sequencing some or all of the genome of human beings and other organisms. (DM)

GENOMIC LIBRARY: A collection of clones made from a set of overlapping DNA fragments representing the entire genome of an organism. Compare LIBRARY. (DM)

GENOMICS: Characterizes the technologies supporting the science of genetics; that is, the DNA informational content of a cell. Since the late 1990s, the field has changed the way we view the biological world since all living organisms, whether bacteria or human, can now have their genomes completely sequenced and archived for ready access. Was a term originally coined to describe the discipline of science concerned with the mapping, sequencing and analysis of genomes - the complete set of genes from an organism and described the "parts manual" for an organism. The commercialization of genome technology, however, is usually focused on the discovery of medically relevant genes as potential therapeutic drug targets or identification of specific gene sequences that are correlated with genetic disorders. Modern advances in genetics have changed the way we view the biological world since all living organisms, ranging from bacteria to humans, can now have their genome sequenced, creating crucial issues of access and ownership of genomes (see BIOINFORMATICS, PROTEOME, PROTEOMICS). (IP)

GENOTYPE: The genetic constitution or makeup of an individual. (DM)

GENUINE PROGRESS INDICATOR: A monetary measure of national wellbeing and the progress of sustainability. Directly comparable to and based on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) goes further by adjusting for economic estimates of 24 additional factors. Among others, these include income distribution, crime, family breakdown, volunteer work, leisure time, resource depletion, pollution, environmental damage, public infrastructure, defensive expenditures and dependence on foreign assets. The GPI has revealed a gradual decline in national wellbeing since the mid 1970s for countries such as the USA, UK, Germany and the Netherlands. This indicates that even despite growth in GDP figures, the total environmental and social costs have outweighed the benefits of economic activity. (See GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT, HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX, INDEX OF SOCIAL HEALTH, PROGRESS, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT). (MP)

GENUS: Level in the classification of organisms above SPECIES (q.v.) and below family. For example, the family Delphinidae (the DOLPHINS (q.v.)) contains 32 species in 17 genera. However, whereas species can be defined with come degree of objectivity, genera, families and the other levels in the classification of organisms are far more subjective. Their meaning is almost entirely the result of previous historical usage of the terms rather than of any feature of the natural world. (MR)




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