We all know what DNA is. It is what makes us who we are. It is genetic material, passed through breeding, which stores our cellular information and is responsible for keeping us a part of our own species. Without this amazingly smart biological process, we could be giving birth to cats!
There is so much about DNA that is complex and difficult to understand. I found this great paragraph from this website to explain simply a bit more about how it works (anything that uses the term ‘building blocks’ is onto a winner in my eyes).
DNA is made of chemical building blocks called nucleotides. These building blocks are made of three parts: a phosphate group, a sugar group and one of four types of nitrogen bases. To form a strand of DNA, nucleotides are linked into chains, with the phosphate and sugar groups alternating.
The four types of nitrogen bases found in nucleotides are: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). The order, or sequence, of these bases determines what biological instructions are contained in a strand of DNA. For example, the sequence ATCGTT might instruct for blue eyes, while ATCGCT might instruct for brown.
The complete DNA instruction book, or genome, for a human contains about 3 billion bases and about 20,000 genes on 23 pairs of chromosomes.
I discovered some interesting facts about DNA too, which will put into perspective just how incredible our bodies are, and what is happening inside our cells.
- DNA fingerprinting, used in paternity testing or to identify criminals, is possible with the smallest amount of genetic material thanks to PCR, a biological technology developed in 1983. Last year, the 300th prisoner in United States history was exonerated after DNA evidence showed he was convicted in error.
Each cell in your body contains about two meters of DNA. If laid end-to-end it would measure 200 billion kilometers. That’s long enough to stretch from Earth to the sun 1,333 times. To put that in perspective, it would take 7.4 days for sunlight to travel the same distance.
- DNA can hold a staggering amount of information. Researchers have stored as much as 700TB of data in a single gram of DNA. If scaled properly, all of the information in the entire world – media, papers, the internet, EVERYTHING – would fit in the back of a single van, according to computational biologist Nick Goldman.
- The phrase ‘everyone is unique’ only really apples to a very tiny part of us. About 99.9% of your DNA is exactly the same as everyone else’s. The other 0.1% is what makes you unique.
Humans shares about 98% of their genes with chimpanzees, 92% with mice, 76% with zebrafish, 51% with fruit flies, 26% with thale cress (a type of weed), and 18% with E. coli bacteria.
To read more awesome facts, please take a look at this website, which is where I found these gems.
There is so much to learn about what we can use DNA for, and there are countless scientists using the research we have so far to make real changes to the world we live in, and the creatures around us. Their work is not so much underrated, but almost forgotten in the everyday events around us, so I wanted to use this as a chance to show you just how impressive it really is. The facts above are all the result of this research, and there is so much more to come.
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