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Glossary

An alphabetical glossary of technical terms used on the site.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)

A disease that destroys the body’s ability to fight infection. It is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Adult stem cell

A stem cell in adult tissue, normally found in the brain, liver and bone marrow.

Aerobic

An aerobic environment contains oxygen. An aerobic organism can survive and grow in an oxygen-rich environment.

Aesthetic

Appealing to the senses.

Agar

A gel-like substance made from seaweed, commonly used as a growth medium for microorganisms.

Agar plate

A sterile dish that contains agar mixed with nutrients, which is used to grow microorganisms.

Albumen

Egg white, the clear liquid inside an egg.

Algae

A plant-like organism that grows in water and can photosynthesise. Includes pond slimes and seaweeds.

Alginate

A large polymer extracted from seaweed. It is used in medical applications and as a thickener in some foods.

Alkaline

A solution that has a pH value greater than 7.

Allele

One of the alternative forms of the same gene.

Allele frequency

The percentage of each allele in a population.

Amino acid

The basic building block of proteins. A short chain of amino acids is called a peptide and a long chain of amino acids (normally more than fifty) is called a protein.

Amniotic fluid

Liquid that surrounds a developing foetus.

Ampicillin

A type of antibiotic, which is related to penicillin. It is commonly used in laboratories to test for uptake of genes by bacteria.

Amplify

To make many copies of a stretch of DNA, particularly by means of polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Anaerobic

In the absence of oxygen.

Anaerobic bacteria

Bacteria which grow in the absence of oxygen.

Anaesthetic

A drug used to prevent people from feeling pain. It can affect the whole body (general) or a particular part (local).

Anaphylaxis

A sudden, severe reaction to a substance, like a protein or drug. It can be life-threatening.

Anatomy

Structure of biological tissue.

Angiogenesis

The growth of new blood vessels.

Anthelmintic

A chemical compound that kills or expels certain intestinal worm parasites.

Anthocyanins

Pigments responsible for red, purple or blue colours in plants.

Anti-inflammatory

A substance that reduces or prevents inflammation.

Antibacterial

A substance that can kill or prevent the growth of bacteria.

Antibiotic

A substance produced by one organism that can destroy or slow down the growth of other microorganisms.

Antibody

A protein that is produced by the immune system to help remove foreign substances and fight infections.

Antigens

A foreign substance or organism that triggers an immune response and causes the body to produce antibodies.

Antimicrobial

A substance that stops the growth of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Antioxidant

A chemical that prevents oxidation, including damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Examples of antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium.

Antiseptic

A chemical substance that can destroy or slow down the growth of microorganisms.

Aotearoa

The Māori name for New Zealand, meaning Land of the Long White Cloud.

Apoptosis

A series of events that lead to the death of the cell. It occurs when a cell is damaged or is no longer needed. Also called cell suicide or programmed cell death.

Aquaculture

The farming of animals or plants in the water.

Aquatic

Growing or living in or near water (either freshwater or marine).

Arable

Land that is used for farming.

Arteries

Blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Arthritis

Inflammation of joint, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Aseptic

Free from contaminating organisms, like bacteria or viruses, which may transmit disease.

Asexual

Reproduction without cell division.

Asexual propagation

Reproduction without combining gametes and can result in the production of many plants that are genetically identical.

Assay

A test to measure a property or concentration of a substance.

Atherosclerosis

A hardening of arteries caused by a build up of fatty substances, which may limit blood flow.

Atom

The smallest unit of matter.

Atomic structure

The way in which atoms are arranged in a molecule

Atrophy

Wasting away of a tissue or organ.

Autism

A disorder of brain function that appears early in life, generally before the age of three. It can cause problems with social interaction, communication, imagination or behaviour.

Autoimmune

When the body’s immune system attacks its own normal, healthy tissues.

Autosome

Any chromosome that is not directly involved in determining the sex of the organism. For example humans have 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes and 1 pair of sex chromosomes (XX in females, XY in males).

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