Hour of Code: Disease Epidemic Lesson Plan

Overview

In this code activity, students are introduced to programming topics, including reading input from the user, printing output to the screen, and mathematically manipulating numerical data. They are also introduced to computational thinking concepts, including control structures which determine the flow of a program.

The activity is structured as a story which mentions topics related to genes, proteins and genetic manipulation. These themes are only very lightly touched on, but can be built upon by further in-class discussion.


Learning Objectives

At completion of this activity, learner will:

  • have used a computer to print data to the screen
  • performed calculations on numerical data
  • have used the computer to make decisions
  • have used logic and problem solving skills to answer simple questions

Background

This activity was inspired by recent research aiming to better understand and eventually treat HIV. Scientist wanted to research a specific gene thought to protect monkeys against Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), related to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). They wanted to test whether cats who carried the gene were resistant to FIV.

Gene transfer, performed with a lentivirus, is not always successful. In this case, scientists decided to also add another gene, originally found in the Aequorea Victoria jellyfish, which produces Green fluorescent protein. If this gene is successfully transferred, the kittens will essentially glow in the dark (see: supplementary figures in the scientific paper published in Nature). This allows scientists to easily tell if both the FIV-resistant gene and the luminescence gene were successfully transferred.

The goal of this area of research is to determine how to make humans resistant to HIV, the virus that causes human AIDS.


Related Materials: Discussion on using animals in medical research

Northwest Association for Biomedical Research has put together an excellent series of lessons on the use of animals in medical research.


Related Materials: Genes and Genetic Diseases

"Differences among individuals extend beyond visible features like eye color and height. We also vary in how we respond to drugs that are used to treat cancer and other illnesses. Often, these differences are coded in our genes. Genetic tools are already helping doctors make more accurate diagnoses, as well as predict which medications will work best for their patients." Watch this video to learn more.

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