DNA – Deoxyribonucleic Acid – the material that codes for amino acids which form proteins, which in turn carry out functions of the cell. DNA is responsible for building life. Our physical characteristics, susceptibility to some diseases and disorders (e. g. breast cancer, sickle cell anemia), and a few behavior characteristics are passed from generation to generation through DNA. DNA controls everything about the way we look, from the color of the eyes to how tall you are to the width of your feet. Every person carries billions of copies of those DNA instructions. DNA is a molecule made up of smaller units.
The basic unit of construction for the DNA molecule (DNA is considered a single molecule) is the base. There are four different bases found in deoxyribonucleic acid. These bases connect together into a long chain of bases to form the DNA molecule (much like pearls connect together to form a pearl necklace). The names of these four bases are adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine. Conventionally the bases are abbreviated as A, C, G, and T (respectively) for simplicity reasons. At the smallest level, DNA is organized into a double helix. The DNA helix is then repeatedly coiled to allow more of it to fit into a compact space.
This helix replicates and passes on its information to the body’s cells. In humans, all the DNA is packaged into 46 separate molecules called “chromosomes. ” The chromosomes each contain thousands of genes, with each gene specifying how to make a particular protein necessary for cellular function. Scientists have long thought that the key to understanding human life lies in knowing the entire sequence of human DNA. Let’s take a look at some of the things that people are able to do with or to DNA, as well as the things still in the realm of science fiction.