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An alphabetical glossary of technical terms used on the site.


A large molecule formed by joining smaller molecules together. Examples include DNA and RNA and protein.

Mad cow disease

Mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a fatal disease that affects cattle. It causes the animals to stagger and become agitated.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A method used to image the inside of tissue, which can help to diagnose medical conditions.


1. Capable of being shaped or formed. 2. Easily hammered into shape.

Mammary gland

A milk-secreting organ of mammals.


A shrub or small tree native to New Zealand and southeast Australia, also know as tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium).


A short sequence of DNA within a genome that can be readily detected. Markers are usually associated with a known gene and provide information about which allele(s) of the gene an individual is likely to carry.

Marker-assisted selection

The use of DNA markers in a breeding programme to predict whether an individual plant or animal carries a particular allele.

Mass spectrometer

A instrument that can measure the mass of atoms.


Masters of Business Administration – an advanced university degree in business studies.


A type of cell division that creates egg and sperm cells.


A cancer of a particular type of skin cell, called a melanocyte. Melanocytes are responsible for skin colour.


An enclosing layer that acts as a selective barrier around a cell.


An inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain or spinal cord, usually caused by bacteria.

Meningococcal disease

A bacterial infection causing inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain or spinal cord.


A breed of sheep that produces very fine wool.


(Of bacteria.) Growing best at moderate temperatures between 25 °C and 40 °C.

Messenger RNA (mRNA)

Single stranded RNA made during transcription and used as the template for protein synthesis in translation. Its sequence is complementary to the DNA sequence from which it is transcribed.

Metabolic pathway

A series of reactions in a cell, where the product from one reaction is used as the reactant for the next reaction, and so on.


To break down or transform a substance.


The sum of all the chemical reactions occurring inside the cells of a living organism.


A cellular chemical produced as part of metabolism.


All of the metabolites, or small molecules, expressed by an individual cell or organism at a particular point in time.


The study of the metabolome (all the small molecules produced in a cell as a result of metabolism).


CH 4, a gas that contributes to the Greenhouse effect.


A compound found in Mānuka honey that is associated with its antibacterial properties.


A small spherical structure composed of molecules.


A technique for determining which genes are actively being used in a cell by checking which mRNA molecules are present.


A microscopic living organism, including protozoa, algae, fungi, bacteria and viruses.


Anything of, or related to microorganisms.

Microbial count

The number of microorganisms which grow on an agar plate. The number is used to indicate whether a substance is contaminated.


The study of microorganisms, including protozoa, algae, fungi, bacteria, and viruses.


A group or colony of microorganisms present in a specific, localised location.


A living organism which is too small to be seen with the naked eye and can only be observed using a microscope. Includes bacteria and most protists.


Narrow cylinders of protein that form a supporting scaffold inside cells.


A sheep with a wool fibre thickness of 23-32 microns (1 micron = 1 millionth of a metre).


Organelles where energy is generated. Found in all eukaryotic cells.


The type of cell division that makes new body cells.

Model organism

A species that is studied extensively in the laboratory. Information from model organisms can shed light on how other species function.


An extinct New Zealand bird, also known as the North Island takahē ( Porphyrio mantelli).

Molecular biologist

A person who studies cells at the molecular level in order to understand the interactions between components like DNA, RNA and proteins.

Molecular biology

The study of cells at the molecular level in order to understand the interactions between components like DNA, RNA, and proteins.

Monoclonal antibody

An antibody that recognises a specific epitope, or region, of a foreign substance.


Only a single gene is involved.


A mammal that lays eggs, such as the platypus and echidna.


A person's belief about what is right and wrong.


Physical shape or form of plants and animals.


An organism that has cells with different genetic characteristics.


A type of fungus that appears as a furry growth, especially in damp or decaying material.


A type of antibiotic resistant bacteria, called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

An autoimmune disease where a person’s immune system gradually destroys myelin, the substance that forms a protective coat around nerve cells and disrupts signalling in the brain and spinal cord.


A chemical that can cause changes in the sequence of DNA.


The mass of thread-like filaments making up the ‘body’ of a fungus.

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