Research Glossary

Please use the glossary below to find explanations for some of the scientific terms used in the current research summaries.

If you come across any words or terms that you would like to see added to our glossary, please do let us know by emailing us at

A - D

Afflicts – A problem or illness that is affecting someone negatively

Agent/s – Something that is active in the specified manner

Arteries – Plural of artery. Blood vessels that take blood from the heart to the other areas of the body.

Association – A link or connection between two things. This link is not always causative, for example, the number of ice creams bought might correlate with the number of people getting sun burn but buying the ice cream isn't causing the sun burn

Aversive - A dislike or unwillingness to interact

Biologics/biologic therapies - A drug or vaccine where the active ingredient is made using living cells, for example an antibody

Biomarker An indicator of a particular bodily process or disease. For example, this could be high levels of a particular protein, which could predict that the disease will respond to a particular drug

Blood vessel – Tube shaped structures of the circulatory system that carry blood around the body. The three main types of blood vessels are veins, arteries and capillaries

BMI (Body Mass Index) - Body mass index uses height and weight to measure whether an individual’s weight is within the healthy range

Body clock rhythms/circadian rhythms  Any biological process that has a natural 24 hour cycle

British Association of Dermatologists Biologics and Immunomodulators Register (BADBIR) – A long-term observational study looking at the safety and long-term efficiency of biologic treatments

Cardiovascular disease - A broad term that covers all conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels

Cell clone A genetically identical copy of the original cell 

Characterisation – To find and describe, or attribute, distinguishing traits

Cholesterol A waxy substance which plays an important part in the structure of human cells. Cholesterol is carried through the blood stream by proteins such as LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein). High levels of LDL have been shown to lead to the development of plaques in blood vessels, which are the main cause of heart attacks and strokes. This has led to the naming of LDL-Cholesterol as ‘bad’ cholesterol

Chronic – An illness that has persisted for a long time or is constantly recurring

Computational methods – Using computers to understand and solve problems. Often involves the development of models and simulations

Connexins A group of proteins that sit in the cell membrane. They allow cells to communicate and bind to each other

Cortisol A steroid hormone which is also known as hydrocortisone when used as a medicine. It is released in response to stress and has a number of functions including suppressing the immune system

Cumulative - Increasing in quantity with each addition

DNA – Short for ‘Deoxyribonucleic acid’, DNA carries all of our genetic information and copies of this information can be passed to the next generation

E - I

Epidermis - The outer layer of the skin

Fatty plaques A name for the deposits that can build up in arteries. These plaques are made up of LDL-cholesterol, fats, calcium and other substances from the blood

Functional characterisation – To find and describe, or attribute, functions to a molecule, pathway, or gene etc.

Genes – Sections of DNA which code for a molecule that has a function in the body

Gene sequencing - The process of working out the DNA code

Genetic defects/variants - The DNA sequences for genes can be different in different people. These differences are a result of mutation and can result in a slightly different protein being produced, which may have a slightly different function. These changes could affect the person negatively, positively, or be neutral

Genetic factors – The genes, and versions of the gene, that can affect a particular condition

Genetic predisposition/susceptibility – An increased chance of developing a particular disease, based on the specific genetic variations of that individual. However, this does not mean that a person will definitely develop the condition. Genetic variations don't often directly cause disease, but may contribute to disease development 

Hypervigilance - A state of high alert

IL-1 – Likely referring to two proteins, IL-1α and IL-1β. These are small signalling proteins in the immune system that promote inflammation

IL-36 – Likely referring to three proteins, IL-36α, IL-36β and IL-36γ. These are small signalling proteins in the immune system that promote inflammation

Increased risk – A higher chance of developing a disease. However, the variable causing the increased risk is not necessarily causing the disease, for example, being over 50 may put you at increased risk of a disease but being 50 does not cause the disease 

Inflammation – An immune response to a detected threat. The affected area often becomes red, hot, swollen, and painful

Inflammatory - Causing inflammation in a part of the body

Inhibitor – A substance that decreases or prevents the activity of another substance

J - N

Keratinocytes - The main type of cell in the epidermis

Lipids – Fatty or waxy molecules from biological sources that don’t dissolve in water. Examples include many natural oils, fats and steroids

Liver fibrosis - The scarring process that happens in response to liver damage. Long term damage and scarring (known as cirrhosis) stops the liver from working properly, which can eventually lead to liver failure

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – A medical imaging technique that uses strong magnets and radio waves to create images of the organs in the body

Mast cells – A type of white blood cell that is involved in wound healing, blood vessel formation and defending the body against parasites. They are also known for their role in allergic reactions

Melatonin – A hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. It is also known to interact with the immune system

messenger RNA - Molecules that carry the DNA code from the nucleus, where the DNA is stored, to the protein-making machines (the ribosomes) in the cell

Microorganisms/Microbes – A microscopic organism, such as a bacterium, virus or fungus 

Multi-disciplinary approach – Using or combining multiple academic areas to solve a problem

Mutation -  A change in the DNA sequence of a gene, the location of a gene, or the number of copies of a gene

Mutation burden – The number of mutations

Narrowband UVB – A small range of UVB wavelengths. Narrowband UVB refers to wavelengths of 311-313 nanometres, whereas UV-B light waves range from 280-315 nanometres

Next generation sequencing – A general term to describe many modern sequencing methods. Also known as high-throughput sequencing, these methods are much quicker and cheaper than the previously used Sanger sequencing

Nucleus - The structure (organelle) that contains the genetic information (DNA) of the cell

O - Z

Onset – The start of something

Pathogenesis - The way a disease develops

Pathways – Can include genetic, metabolic or signalling pathways. Genetic pathways refer to a group of genes interacting, whereas metabolic and signalling pathways are a series of chemical reactions or signalling events at the cell level

Phototherapy – Using light as a treatment for illness

Pilot – To test a project on a smaller scale before running it on a bigger scale

Pilot study – A smaller scale study that is carried out before expanding the experiment or study. Often used to test the experiment plan and improve it before running the full-scale study

Power calculation - A way to calculate the minimum number of subjects you need in a research study to find an effect, if there is an effect to be found

Prognosis – The likely course of a disease or situation

Stratified medicine - Also known as personalised medicine. Stratified medicine is the grouping of patients based on the causes of their disease or their response to treatment to ensure the most effective treatment options are used

Systemic treatment – A treatment that works throughout the whole body

Transcriptomic analysis - A way of looking at all the RNA in a cell or group of cells. It is often used to look at the messenger RNA in a group of cells. Messenger RNA is produced when a gene is active and so transcriptomic analysis allows us to see which genes are active under different conditions

Transient elastography - Transient elastography measures the speed that a sound wave can pass through the liver and converts this into a liver stiffness measurement. The more scarred and therefore stiff the liver is, the quicker the waves will pass through

Tryptase – A protein released by mast cells when they are activated. Tryptase is suggested to be involved with the immune system and has been linked to asthma and other allergy and inflammatory conditions

Ultraviolet B light - A subtype of ultraviolet light, with wavelengths between 280-315 nanometres

Ultraviolet radiation – Invisible light waves that have shorter wavelengths than normal visible light but longer than x-rays

Univariate analysis - The analysis used when a data set has one variable, one thing to be measured

Variant – A different version of something

White blood cells – Cells of the immune system that protect the body from infection and other foreign substances. They are also called leucocytes or leukocytes.

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