anus: The opening at the end of an animal’s digestive system through which solid waste leaves the body.
artificial intelligence: A type of knowledge-based decision-making exhibited by machines or computers. The term also refers to the field of study in which scientists try to create machines or computer software capable of intelligent behavior.
bladder: A flexible bag-like structure for holding liquids. (in biology) The organ that collects urine until it will be excreted.
cancer: Any of more than 100 different diseases, each characterized by the rapid, uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The development and growth of cancers, also known as malignancies, can lead to tumors, pain and death.
cell: The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells. Most organisms, such as yeasts, molds, bacteria and some algae, are composed of only one cell.
data: Facts and/or statistics collected together for analysis but not necessarily organized in a way that gives them meaning. For digital information (the type stored by computers), those data typically are numbers stored in a binary code, portrayed as strings of zeros and ones.
diagnose: To analyze clues or symptoms in the search for their cause. The conclusion usually results in a diagnosis — identification of the causal problem or disease.
DNA: (short for deoxyribonucleic acid) A long, double-stranded and spiral-shaped molecule inside most living cells that carries genetic instructions. It is built on a backbone of phosphorus, oxygen, and carbon atoms. In all living things, from plants and animals to microbes, these instructions tell cells which molecules to make.
engineer: A person who uses science to solve problems. As a verb, to engineer means to design a device, material or process that will solve some problem or unmet need. (v.) To perform these tasks, or the name for a person who performs such tasks.
genetic: Having to do with chromosomes, DNA and the genes contained within DNA. The field of science dealing with these biological instructions is known as genetics. People who work in this field are geneticists.
gut: An informal term for the gastrointestinal tract, especially the intestines.
infection: A disease that can spread from one organism to another. It’s usually caused by some type of germ.
information: (as opposed to data) Facts provided or trends learned about something or someone, often as a result of studying data.
infrared: A type of electromagnetic radiation invisible to the human eye. The name incorporates a Latin term and means “below red.” Infrared light has wavelengths longer than those visible to humans. Other invisible wavelengths include X-rays, radio waves and microwaves. Infrared light tends to record the heat signature of an object or environment.
internet: An electronic communications network. It allows computers anywhere in the world to link into other networks to find information, download files and share data (including pictures).
laser: A device that generates an intense beam of coherent light of a single color. Lasers are used in drilling and cutting, alignment and guidance, in data storage and in surgery.
model: A simulation of a real-world event (usually using a computer) that has been developed to predict one or more likely outcomes. Or an individual that is meant to display how something would work in or look on others.
monitor: To test, sample or watch something, especially on a regular or ongoing basis.
protein: A compound made from one or more long chains of amino acids. Proteins are an essential part of all living organisms. They form the basis of living cells, muscle and tissues; they also do the work inside of cells. Among the better-known, stand-alone proteins are the hemoglobin (in blood) and the antibodies (also in blood) that attempt to fight infections. Medicines frequently work by latching onto proteins.
prototype: A first or early model of some device, system or product that still needs to be perfected.
range: The full extent or distribution of something. For instance, a plant or animal’s range is the area over which it naturally exists. (in math or for measurements) The extent to which variation in values is possible. Also, the distance within which something can be reached or perceived.
risk: The chance or mathematical likelihood that some bad thing might happen. For instance, exposure to radiation poses a risk of cancer. Or the hazard — or peril — itself. (For instance: Among cancer risks that the people faced were radiation and drinking water tainted with arsenic.)
RNA: A molecule that helps “read” the genetic information contained in DNA. A cell’s molecular machinery reads DNA to create RNA, and then reads RNA to create proteins.
robot: A machine that can sense its environment, process information and respond with specific actions. Some robots can act without any human input, while others are guided by a human.
scanner: A machine that runs some sort of light (which includes anything from X-rays to infrared energy) over a person or object to get data from a succession of images. When a computer brings these data together, they might be used to make a motion picture of something or offer a three-dimensional view through some object. Other times, the data will just be used for numerical comparisons within some computer program.
stool: (in medicine) Another name for feces.
syndrome: Two or more symptoms that together characterize a particular disease, disorder or social condition.
technology: The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry — or the devices, processes and systems that result from those efforts.
tract: A particular, well-defined area. It can be a patch of land, such as the area on which a house is located. Or it can be a bit of real estate in the body. For instance, important parts of an animal’s body will include its respiratory tract (lungs and airways), reproductive tract (gonads and hormone systems important to reproduction) and gastro-intestinal tract (the stomach and intestines — or organs responsible for moving food, digesting it, absorbing it and eliminating wastes).
unique: Something that is unlike anything else; the only one of its kind.
virus: Tiny infectious particles consisting of RNA or DNA surrounded by protein. Viruses can reproduce only by injecting their genetic material into the cells of living creatures. Although scientists frequently refer to viruses as live or dead, in fact no virus is truly alive. It doesn’t eat like animals do, or make its own food the way plants do. It must hijack the cellular machinery of a living cell in order to survive.
waste: Any materials that are left over from biological or other systems that have no value, so they can be disposed of as trash or recycled for some new use.
white blood cells: Blood cells that help the body fight off infection.