What is DNA?
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid is found in all living things. This hereditary material first was isolated by Friedrich Miescher, who in 1869, discovered a microscopic substance in the pus of discarded surgical bandages that he called ”nuclein”. DNA is built using only four building blocks, the nucleotides adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine, even though it codes the life. Segments of DNA, called genes, tell the cell to build specific proteins, which control its identity and function.
Four Strange Facts
All human beings are 99.9 percent identical in their genetic makeup. Of the 3 billion base pairs in the human genome, only 0.1% are unique to us. It is the tiny difference that allows us to be individuals with different skin, eye and hair colour. Differences in the remaining 0.1 percent hold important clues about the causes of diseases. It means we’re all more similar than we are different.
60% of genes are conserved between fruit flies and humans. 2/3 of human genes known to be involved in cancer have counterparts in the fruit fly. Humans also share 98.7% of their DNA in common with chimpanzees and bonobos, 85% with a mouse, and 41% with a banana.
Deoxyribonucleic acid has a fragile structure. For this reason, errors occur thousands of times a day. These errors can cause the protein to be defective. DNA has many repair mechanisms that can fix it, but some errors are not repaired. This is called a mutation. Mutations can cause diseases, such as cancer. However, this does not mean that the mutation is always something harmful and useless.
Due to it is hereditary material, DNA found in every human cell, and if you unravel each strand it is nearly 2 meters long. It is amazing that it fits into 0.09 micrometer of space. If you unwrap all of the DNA you have in all your cells, you could reach the moon. Moreover, our genome contains three billion base pairs of DNA. It is estimated that if you type eight hours a day at 60 words per minute, it would take approximately 50 years to type the human genome. A complete 3 billion base genome would take 3 gigabytes of storage space.
1.”Comparative Genomics Fact Sheet.” National Human Genome Research Institute,” 3 Nov. 2015.
2.Venter, Craig, Hamilton O. Smith, and Mark D. Adams. “The Sequence of the Human Genome.” Clinical Chemistry, vol. 61, no. 9, pp. 1207–1208, 1 Sept. 2015, doi:10.1373/clinchem.2014.237016
Ugur Yilbasi is a Junior Research Fellow at European Institute of Policy Research and Human Rights. Ugur is a senior student at Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Istanbul Kültür University.