Precision Medicine: Lesson Plan

Explain how DNA is used by scientists to compare and identify organisms, as well as how scientists in North Carolina are using DNA technology to improve disease treatment. Then, evaluate some of the ethical issues surrounding the use of DNA technology.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • Bio.3.3.1 — Interpret how DNA is used for comparison and identification of organisms.
  • Bio.3.3.3 — Evaluate some of the ethical issues surrounding the use of DNA technology (including cloning, genetically modified organisms, stem cell research and Human Genome Project).

Learning Outcomes

Time Allotment Needed: 5 days (block schedule)

  • Students will interpret how DNA is used for comparison and identification of organisms. 
  • Students will evaluate some of the ethical issues surrounding the use of DNA technology, including cloning, GMOs, stem cell research, and the Human Genome Project.

Essential Questions

  1. What is DNA? 
  2. How is DNA used by scientists to compare and identify organisms? 
  3. What is cloning? 
  4. What are genetically modified organisms? 
  5. What are stem cells? 
  6. What is the Human Genome Project? 
  7. What are some of the ethical issues surrounding the use of DNA technology? 

Essential Vocabulary

  • DNA
  • Cloning 
  • Stem cell 
  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) 
  • Human Genome Project

Engage

Students will watch the NC Science Now Video Precision Medicine to learn more about how DNA technology is being used by scientists. Scientists at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are sequencing DNA in an effort to treat cancer at a molecular level. By sequencing DNA of normal tissue and cancerous tissue, scientists can determine a more precise treatment for a patient, compared to traditional chemotherapy treatments. After students have watched the video, answer and discuss the following questions as a class. 

  1. What is DNA?
  2. What is DNA sequencing? 
  3. How is DNA sequencing being used to treat cancer? 
  4. What is the importance of comparing the DNA of normal tissue to the DNA of cancerous tissue? 
  5. How do you think “precision medicine” can benefit patients? 
  6. Do you think there are any disadvantages to “precision medicine”? Explain your answer.

Explore

Students will learn more about how DNA is used to compare and identify organisms by completing the Cytochrome C Comparison Lab. After students have completed the lab, discuss as a class how DNA is used to compare and identify organisms.

Explain

Divide the class into six groups. Assign each group one of the following topics to research: cloning, GMOs, stem cell research, the Human Genome Project, familial DNA searching (used by law enforcement agencies) and gene therapy. Instruct students to research their topic; possible resources are listed at the bottom of this section. They should record the answers to the following questions as they research. 

  1. Describe your topic. Define any terms needed to fully understand your topic. 
  2. What is the history of your topic? 
  3. What scientific processes or procedures are involved in the use of your topic? 
  4. What are the advantages of the use of your topic? 
  5. What are the disadvantages of the use of your topic? 
  6. What ethical issues surround the use of your topic?
 
Students can use the websites listed below as a starting point for their research. Encourage students to use other websites they are comfortable with, but that are still reliable sources. Some websites may contain links to other pages that can be helpful. 

Extend

Using the information they found in the Explore section, have each group hold a debate about the ethical issues surrounding their topic. Divide each group in half and have one half debate for the use of topic they researched and the other half present an argument against the use of the topic. Allow students to ask questions at the end of each debate. For tips about the structure of a debate visit Hold a Class Debate.

Evaluate

Students will write a letter to the editor for a print or digital newspaper. They will write about how they feel about the ethical issues involved in one of the following four topics: cloning, GMOs, stem cell research or the Human Genome Project. Students should support their opinions with facts and data as needed. For additional guidelines on how to write a letter to the editor, visit Write an Opinion Piece or a Letter to the Editor for Your Local Newspaper.