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Our Science Glossary glossary_m

Glossary

Macrophages

Large, white blood cells that ingest foreign substances and display antigens on their surface, produced from the foreign substances, to be recognised by other cells of the immune system. Macrophages help destroy bacteria and tumour cells, as well as releasing substances that stimulate other cells of the immune system.

Malignant

A medical term used to describe a severe and progressively worsening disease. The term is most familiar as a description of cancer. A malignant tumor may be contrasted with a non-cancerous benign tumor in that a malignancy is not self-limited in its growth, is capable of invading into adjacent tissues and may be capable of spreading to distant tissues (metastasizing), The study of the application of computer and statistical techniques to the management of information. In genome projects, informatics includes the development of methods to search databases quickly, to analyze DNA sequence information, and to predict protein sequence and structure from DNA sequence datawhile a benign tumor has none of those properties.

Metastasis (as in metastatic)

The spread of cancer from its primary site to other parts of the body.

Microcalorimetry

The computerised detection of small amounts of heat produced by live tissue.

Migraine

A neurological disorder in which the most common symptom is an intense and disabling episodic headache lasting from between four and seventy-two hours. Migraine headaches are usually characterised by severe pain on one or both sides of the head, often accompanied by photophobia (hypersensitivity to light), phonophobia (hypersensitivity to sound) and nausea.

Monoclonal antibody

An antibody derived from a single clone of cells; all antibodies derived from such a group of cells have the same sequence of DNA. It may also be written as mAbs.

Monotherapy

The use of a single drug or therapy.

Multiple sclerosis

A chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system that causes muscular weakness, loss of co-ordination and speech and visual disturbances. The disease is characterised by a gradual destruction of myelin occurring in patches throughout the brain or spinal cord (or both) which then interferes with the nerve pathways. The onset of MS occurs mainly between the ages of twenty and forty, but can occur in children and older adults. The exact cause of MS is unknown, with a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors acting as triggers for the disease.

Muscarinics

Muscarinic receptors are a type of membrane bound, acetylcholine receptor that are more sensitive to muscarine than to nicotine. (Muscarine and nicotine are both alkaloids, a large group of chemicals that are made by plants and have nitrogen in them some of which have been shown to work against cancer.) Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter found extensively in the brain and autonomic nervous system. It is also the neurotransmitter used to cause voluntary muscle contraction. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that is released from a nerve cell which transmits an impulse from a nerve cell to another cell.

Myelin

A soft, white coating of nerve fibres in the central nervous system that covers and protects nerves. Myelin is composed of lipids (fats) and protein and serves as insulation and as an aid to efficient nerve fibre conduction. When myelin is damaged in multiple sclerosis, nerve fibre conduction is faulty or absent.