DNA Day experts answer your questions about DNA basics

CurioCity
6 May 2012

What is DNA?

Hi, So this is a very important, interesting question. There is A LOT to know about DNA, but in terms of the basis, of what is most important to us about DNA, it is the basic building block for all living creatures and organisms (including plants). DNA contains genes which together form the genetic code, which is very complicated and coded in a very efficient way (using four bases A, T, G, C and triplet codons), which we inherit from our parents from birth. Each person has a unique distinct combination of DNA (except for identical twins), and this DNA contains the code for proteins and molecules which have an important role in different aspects of how we develop. Such as for example which physical or internal features we inherit, like our eye color. It can even have a role in determining if we will inherit a disease later in life. Currently there is a lot of research going into genetics and the role that DNA plays in determining the onset of disease, in which it seems to have a much bigger role than was expected before. The DNA of similar species tends to be similar, but like I said, no two individuals will have exactly the same DNA, which in a sense helps us all be unique individuals. Again there is a lot to know about DNA, and one site you might want to check out for more detailed information, and recent research in DNA technology and findings is: http://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-DNA.aspx Or you can let me know if you want to know anything else about DNA

- Answer provided by Harman Sawhney

What is DNA?

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms and many viruses. It is a nucleic acid and is the blueprint for life.

- Answer provided by Dr. Dennis McCormac

What are DNA, RNA, and Chromosomes made out of? What makes up a strand of DNA? How is it made?

Both DNA and RNA are very long molecules that encode genetic information. Chemically speaking, RNA is less stable than DNA because there is one less hydroxyl group on the sugar (ribose) that forms the backbone of the DNA, along with phosphate. The informational content are the nucleobases attached to those sugar phospohate backbones. The DNA nucleobases are commonly referrred to via their one letter acronyms: A, C, G, T. So a strand of DNA is typically represented by strings of these...e.g. ATG indicates the start of protein stranslation.

- Answer provided by Dr. Paul Gordon

What is the difference between animal and human DNA?

Both DNA and RNA are very long molecules that encode genetic information. Chemically speaking, RNA is less stable than DNA because there is one less hydroxyl group on the sugar (ribose) that forms the backbone of the DNA, along with phosphate� At the fundamental chemical level the DNA is the same, it's the information content that is different. Think of DNA as a medium, like a DVD. Any type of movie can be put on DVD, it's hard to tell from just looking at an unlabeled disk.

- Answer provided by Dr. Paul Gordon

When did humans first become aware of genetics and DNA?

Well Gregor Mendel was the father of modern genetics with pea plants and his work was published around 1860's. DNA structure in 1956 I think by Watson and Crick.

- Answer provided by Dr. Dennis McCormac

What is a recessive gene?

Recessive gene is an allele/gene that causes a visible or detectable characteristic that is only seen in a an organism that has two copies of the same allele and never in a heterozygous genotype.

- Answer provided by Dr. Dennis McCormac

Is there a possibility that your DNA can undergo recombination? Is it possible to alter a person's genetics entirely? If so, what will be the most noticeable change (Ex. Change in Personality)?

Recombination is a phenomenon that occurs in all cells. I am not sure about altering someone's genetics entirely. However, researchers have be working on ways to correct problems in the cells DNA. This process is cell based gene therapy.

- Answer provided by Dr. David Charest

If DNA did not exist what would happen?

There would be no life as we know it!

- Answer provided by Dr. Monique Haakensen

What makes plant DNA different from animal DNA?

Plant DNA and animal DNA share a lot of different characteristics, in that they have complementary strands and have the 4 bases T, C, A and G. Plant DNA tends to come in many ploidy levels (that is they can have more than two copies of a chromosome). So humans are diploid (two copies of a chromosome) where as wheat is a hexaploid (6 copies of every chromosome). Plant cells tend to be totipotent, which means that every plant cell can give rise to another plant. Human cells are bit different in that a specific type of human cell (stem cells) can differentiate into other human cell types.

- Answer provided by Dr. Dennis McCormac

Is there a most commonly shared type of DNA or RNA between species on the planet?

All species have functions that are common to all, such as cell division. There is a lot of DNA similarity between organisms for these functions.

- Answer provided by Dr. Gijs Van Rooijen

How does a molecule hold information?

A molecule of DNA holds information as a code made up of four chemical bases, adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). The order of these bases makes a code that holds information. The order, (or sequence) of these bases determines the information available.

- Answer provided by Dr. Monique Haakensen

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