Interested in exploring ethical, legal, and social dimensions of genetics in your classroom? Check out this series of bite-sized, self-contained lessons (called “SNAPSHOTs”) that explore the use of genetic tools - key scientific concepts, the potential benefits, as well as the implications - through a central case study. Each SNAPSHOT provides high quality and meaningful content that students can work through in a self-directed manner. Geared in particular towards high school educators and their students, SNAPSHOTs are also suitable for those at the college level. SNAPSHOTs are part of a larger set of resources created by our partners at the Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd) of Harvard Medical School, who promote education and dialogue about genetics towards a more equitable and safe future as genetic technologies enter societal use. 

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Genetics and Ancestry

Admixture Testing: How Can Your DNA Provide Insights Into Your Ancestry?

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

DNA ancestry testing comes in several varieties, which provide different ways for people to explore their ancestry, and can be a rewarding and complicated endeavor. This lesson asks students to explore how admixture testing (or biogeographical ancestry analysis) works to provide an analysis of a…

Ancestry and Identity in the Genomic Age

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

It is increasingly possible for individuals to learn about their genetic ancestry through low-cost DNA tests marketed to consumers. Ancestry tests are nuanced, and the results are subject to limitations. Still, these tests can yield results that are surprising, or, warmly welcomed and might fill…

The Common Thread: DNA and Human Variation

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

As scientists analyze DNA from more and more people, they are developing a better understanding of human genetic variation. Students learn what genetic variation is, and consider the questions: How similar are two people’s DNA code? How much do they differ? What does human genetic variation look…

Genetics and Health

Identifying & Understanding Rare Genetic Conditions: Meet Tess Bigelow

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

Why might families affected by a rare genetic disorder look to genetic testing and advances in genetic research? In the lesson, students learn about the successes and challenges facing families as they navigate the world of activism, research, genetics and medicine in search of treatment options…

Introduction to Genetics and Medicine

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

This lesson examines the many reasons a person may choose to learn about their genetic information. For some, a difficult-to-diagnose disease might be identified thanks to genetic testing, while others use genetics to inform what medicines might be most effective, or to learn about future…

When New Treatments Come with Big Hopes and a Big Price Tag

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a rare genetic disorder, characterized by a loss of motor function. Researchers have developed treatments for people with this rare genetic disorder, and this lesson highlights families and patients who are excited about new treatments but also discusses how the cost…

Genetics in Society

ACTN3: Can Genetics Tell Me if I am Going to be an Olympic Sprinter?

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

Genetic testing kits are sold for many purposes. Most focus on health and/or ancestry traits, but some of these tests report on genetic markers that have been linked to athletic performance and risk for injuries. Using ACTN3 as our example, this lesson explores the potential and limitations of…

Direct-To-Consumer Testing in the Genomic Age

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

Technological developments are making it possible to read a person’s entire genetic code, or genome, more rapidly and at a lower cost than ever before. Personal genome sequencing is allowing scientists and doctors to better understand the connections between genes and human health, improve…

Privacy Protections for Genetic Information: Meet GINA

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

GINA (the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act) is a U.S. law to  protect people’s genetic information at work and in the health insurance market (with some exceptions). Students consider that since scientists rely on people contributing  genetic information to research databases and…

Genetic Engineering in Health and Society

Could a Deadly Disease be Prevented by Editing the Genome of the Cassava Plant?

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

In the past decade, scientists have developed new tools for editing the DNA of living organisms, and these tools can be applied to all living organisms including the food supply. In this case study we look at the cassava plant, an important food source for 800 million people worldwide, that some…

Genome Editing & Organ Transplants

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

There is an extreme shortage of organs for people who need donations and scientists are challenged with finding a solution. Using pigs, genome editing may help us create more organs suitable for human transplant. This lesson examines the scientific as well as ethical and social considerations of…

Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy - the Science, Benefits, and Implications of a New Reproductive Genetic Therapy

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

Mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT) is a new technique that enables prospective parents to avoid passing down certain serious medical conditions, called mitochondrial diseases, to their children. This therapy has drawn media attention in recent years, as scientists, ethicists, policymakers,…

Saving the Hawaiian Honeycreeper Birds

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Author(s): Personal Genetics Education Project (pgEd.org)

Can genetic technology be used to rescue the Hawaiian honeycreeper birds? There are a new generation of genetic tools offering ways to change the world around us to improve human health, crops, and the environment, but not everyone agrees these tools would be a benefit. Some  people worry about…