Social distance teaching and learning: An online DNA nucleotide binding lab experience for health sciences and non-major students

Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2020 Aug 24. doi: 10.1002/bmb.21426. Online ahead of print.


DNA analysis is a common diagnostic tool in healthcare: ranging from microbial typing (e.g. DNA strands of viral, bacterial and even fungal pathogens), oncological screen (e.g. Breast cancer detection via DNA analysis of any BRCA gene mutations), genetic amniocentesis test (a medical technique used in determining chromosomal conditions such as down syndrome in the fetus) and a host of other medical diagnostics based on the knowledge of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and the genetic information carried in this macromolecule. However, such a wide-range of medical diagnostic mechanisms using DNA begs the question: How much does the undergraduate health sciences and/or non-major students understand about the basic biochemical properties of DNA? Here, a virtual lab module was used (with the addition of Pre and Post Lab Questions and a Discussion Topic relating DNA to Healthcare) along with a learning management system, to help undergraduate health sciences students visualize the biochemical properties of DNA molecule, such as binding constant and Gibbs free energy of binding. This lab was adapted to offer a platform on which an Instructor can design steps for students to explore the DNA nucleotide binding module during a time in which social distance curricula is necessary.

Keywords: laboratory exercises; medical education; web-based learning.