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New NLM Web Site Takes Mystery Out of Genes, Chromosomes, DNA

When you hear "gene map," do you think it's a guide to finding the nearest Gap store? Are you the kind of person who thinks that "genetic markers" are sold at office supply stores?

No problem. Thanks to the National Library of Medicine, you can now find answers to your genetic questions. With the click of a mouse, you can go to NLM's newest consumer web site, Genetics Home Reference, at Genetics Home Reference joins (the consumer site for general medical information) and (the site that lists clinical research trials) in the lexicon of NLM's consumer medical web sites.

By now, most of us have heard about the mapping of the human genome — the complete set of chromosomes and the "instructional manual" for a human being. We understand the basics of genetics but we want to learn more. Genetics Home Reference is a good place to start. Created for the lay public, the site's language is written at about the high school level. Explanations are straight and simple, written in easily understandable, jargon-free English.

If you're the sort of person who remembers "a little from their high school biology class," you can take a quick refresher course by clicking the Help Me Understand Genetics page. There you will learn about, for example, how genes can be turned on and off in cells, what it means if a disorder seems to run in a family, and the principles of gene mutation.

If you have questions about a specific disease, you can browse either by disease/condition or by gene. If you type in "Alzheimer's disease," for instance, a page appears where the information is written in a question-and-answer format. You'll find out how people inherit Alzheimer's, the symptoms and what treatments are available. There's also a geographic listing of genetic counselors and information for caregivers. In addition, you can easily find details on the specific genes related to Alzheimer's.

Other features include a glossary of genetic terms, links that take you to clinical trials related to the disorder you're searching, and more advanced genetic information. Genetics Home Reference will be adding genetic diseases on a regular basis and the information will be updated as needed.

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