DNA databases

June 12, 2013

For many years, the UK has utilised a National DNA database. This is a powerful tool in crime-fighting but is ethically controversial. The recent US Supreme Court decision (Maryland v King) rehearses some of these issues in an American context (see various posts on the Stanford Law and Biosciences blog for further reflection on the ramifications of the Supreme Court case).

The following video, which included an interview with DNA fingerprinting pioneer Sir Alec Jeffreys, was produced by second year students at the University of Leicester.

Users of Bioethicsbytes interested in teaching about the ethics of DNA databases might also be interested the following posts:

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Headline bioethics

June 3, 2011

The Headline Bioethics study guides are being hosted on the Virtual Genetics Education Centre at the University of Leicester

Headline bioethics is a new series of resources for teaching about bioethics. There will be two styles of Headline bioethics resources – study guides and commentaries. For both sets of material, each resource is focussed around a news story which raises interesting ethical question in the fields of biology and biomedicine. The selected stories must all be available as a video clip on the BBC news website.

Study guides include background information and structured worksheets which teachers can either use “of the shelf” or customise for their own purposes. Commentaries are authored by undergraduate students and offer reflections on some of the ethical issues raised by the news story.

The ethics of GM crops is one of the topics considered in Headline Bioethics

The first two study guides, on Genetically Modified crops and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, are now available.  These Headline bioethics resources was authored by Sarah Curtis, a TULIP intern at the University of Leicester. If you have thoughts about these materials, or suggestions for future topics that you’d like to see covered in this way, then please let us know.


Studying Huntington’s Disease in Model Organisms

March 18, 2011

For a while now I’ve been working with a couple of colleagues at the University of Leicester to produce some videos about the use of model organisms in research. The “big film” is still in gestation, but the project has generated a number of other videos which are now available on YouTube.

The most recent 3-minute video features the research of Dr Flav Giorgini and his team. In particular, the film focuses on their work involves the use of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) to improve our understanding of the fundamental processes involved in Huntington’s Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

It is our hope that videos of this kind will help explain the relevance of work on other species, and especially, lower organisms. We would value any comments you have about the film and especially its potential as a teaching tool.

Other videos already available as part of this series include:

The production of these videos has been supported by the BBSRC and GENIE, the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning about Genetics


Forensic uses of DNA

December 10, 2010

For the past three years we have been asking second year students to produce a short film on a bioethical topic as an assessed activity. This task allows the students to demonstrate their knowledge in creative ways. I have finally got around to posting some of their films on our own YouTube channel. The first of these focusses on the use of DNA in forensics and as well as the students’ own CSI-style story it also features an interview with Alec Jeffreys. More videos will be posted shortly.


A new service from BioethicsBytes

June 6, 2008

Over the last few months the BioethicsBytes team have been working on a new tool to help teachers of secondary school biology for 14 to 18 year olds in England and Wales.

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With ethics becoming an increasing part of the science curriculum at both GCSE and A level, we’ve carried out an audit of the bioethical content in all of the new specifications in order to be able to recommend BioethicsBytes and other resources relating to each topic. We hope you find this useful.

Click this link to visit the Bioethics in the UK Curriculum page.