Bio-ITEST Genetic Testing

Individual lessons and curriculum support materials are described in the table below and can be downloaded there
**NEW** Find all the Bio-ITEST genetic testing structures in one place. Check out our new Bio-ITEST collection.
NEW** Find all the BRCA1 structures in one place in our new BRCA1 structure collection!

To cite the Bio-ITEST Genetic Testing materials, or to download the entire curriculum:

Chowning, J., Kovarik, D., Grisworld, J., Porter, S., Spitze, J., Farris, C., and K. Peterson.  Using Bioinformatics: Genetic Testing.  Published Online April 2012. figshare.

**Note:  An updated version of Lesson 5 that uses Molecule World can be downloaded below.  

The development of these materials was funded in part by an ITEST grant from the National Science Foundation DRL-0833779. 

Click here to view the two-part BRCA1 animation described in the Genetic Testing curriculum.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.

Title Description

Overview of Genetic Testing Unit

The Bio-ITEST genetic testing curriculum is designed for high school students in grades 9-12.  In a series of eight lessons, students are introduced to the idea of genetic testing and the implications for managing information about their personal health.  Through this curriculum, students:

  • Learn how to navigate databases at the NCBI
  • Explore the story of a family debating whether or not to get genetic testing for mutations related to breast cancer
  • Compare and align DNA sequences to identify family members' samples that contain mutations in BRCA1
  • Work with molecular structures to understand how a common mutation changes the structure of the BRCA1 protein
  • Utilize a process for evaluating genetic risks
  • Learn about bioinformatics careers
  • Work through activities to assess understanding

Download Genetic Testing Overview (pdf)

Lesson One: Bioinformatics and Genetic Testing

A short topical play introduces students to the fields of bioinformatics, genetic testing, direct-to-consumer genetic testing, and ethical considerations. Students discuss some of the broad implications and ethical questions raised from gaining information through genetic testing. Students then consider a number of genetic tests and their potential usefulness and value and, as a class, explore the website of 23andMe, a company that offers direct-to-consumer genetic tests. The lesson wraps up as it began—by engaging students in a story. Through a short video, students are introduced to a family impacted by breast cancer. In Lesson One, students also learn how bioengineers might use bioinformatics tools in their career.

Download Genetic Testing Lesson 1 (pdf)

Download Genetic Testing Lesson 1 PowerPoint (ppt)

Lesson Five: Learning to Use Molecular Models

****UPDATED April 2015****  This activity has been updated to use Molecule World, a user-friendly molecular modeling app for the iPad.  
Some of the advantages of using Molecule World for this activity are:

  • Better representations of atom sizes
  • Ability to select and change views by touch
  • Easier to use than Cn3D
  • ​Structures can be loaded in Molecule World ahead of time
  • Easier to compare normal vs mutant structures
  • Molecule World has color keys

Up to this point in the curriculum, students have seen the BRCA1 protein represented in a linear, sequence form. In this lesson, students are introduced to the  importance of a protein’s three-dimensional structure. Students engage in a short activity first in which they use a chenille pipe cleaner stem to make a "protein" with a simple function, to illustrate the relationship between a protein’s structure and function. Students then learn to navigate between linear protein sequences and three-dimensional structures by using Molecule World. Students begin by viewing and manipulating DNA—a familiar molecule to students. When students are familiar with the program, students visualize parts of the BRCA1 protein to show how a specific mutation in the BRCA1 gene ultimately changes or destroys the protein’s function. In Lesson Five, students learn how 3D animators might use bioinformatics tools in their career.

We have a short (<2 minute) video to show how this works in Investigating breast cancer with Molecule World in the Bio-ITEST curriculum


1.  Get Molecule World from the iTunes app store.
2.  Download Genetic Testing Lesson 5 Slides updated March 2015 Powerpoint (ppt)
3.  Download Genetic Testing Lesson 5
Using Molecular Models Teacher guide, updated April 2015 (pdf)
4.  Download Genetic Testing Lesson 5 Using Molecular Models Student Instructions (pdf)
5.  Download Genetic Testing Lesson 5 Using Molecular Models Student Worksheet (pdf)

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