• Question: what is your best fact about DNA

    Asked by rebeccarabbit2019 to Aina, AlexAgrotis, Alex, Ambre, Anabel, Deepak, Emmanuelle, Ettie, James, Kaitlin, Kate, Lorena, Marianne, Matthew, MattyB, Nina, Patrick, Rachel, Rebecca, Ross, Ryan, Shobhana, Shonna, Thiloka, David on 11 Jun 2019. This question was also asked by justbarnaby.
    • Photo: Shonna Johnston

      Shonna Johnston answered on 11 Jun 2019:


      This is probably the most obvious fact but I love that its a double helix. When it was a quiet time of year at school we used to get to watch the 1987 BBC film about the discovery of the double helix with Jeff Goldblum as James Watson. I guess it was one of the few times you saw a woman scientist – Roaslind Franklin was played by Juliet Stevenson – as a positive character.

    • Photo: Rachel Hardy

      Rachel Hardy answered on 11 Jun 2019:


      I find it really interesting that DNA gets damaged between 1,000 to 1 million times every day! This can happen every time a cell divides, during the process of DNA replication. DNA replication happens when a DNA molecule unwinds, with both DNA strands being copied. This process forms 2 new DNA molecules, both of which can be divided between the two new cells after division has taken place. Lots of errors can happen during replication, which can introduce mutations into the DNA strands. Mutations occur when the chemical signature of DNA is altered, resulting in faulty proteins being made. Luckily, cells have evolved lots of ways to correct these errors and prevent mutations. This involves proteins, which are known all together as ‘DNA damage machinery’. When errors in the DNA are not corrected, diseases like cancer can develop. This makes the DNA damage machinery in cells super important for us to remain healthy 🙂

    • Photo: Nina Rzechorzek

      Nina Rzechorzek answered on 11 Jun 2019: last edited 11 Jun 2019 5:44 pm


      That it is so well packed! If you stretched out the DNA from just one cell of your body, it would be about 2 metres long (taller than you!) and if all the DNA in all your cells was stretched out and connected end-to-end, one estimate is that it would be about twice the diameter of our Solar System. Here is a nice video that explains how this incredible packaging of DNA is achieved:

    • Photo: Rebecca Moon

      Rebecca Moon answered on 11 Jun 2019:


      Some of my work has been in a field called epigenetics. This is the study of small markers on the DNA which alters transcription of genes. These markers can be influenced by the early in uterus environment including maternal smoking and dietary exposures (we are particularly interested in vitamin D). So I find it fascinating that whilst 2 people could have exactly the same DNA sequence, the expression of the genes encoded in that DNA might be different because of differences in the epigenetic markers. We are trying to establish if we can influence the epigenetic markers to have a positiv clinical effect on bone structure.

    • Photo: James Streetley

      James Streetley answered on 12 Jun 2019: last edited 12 Jun 2019 4:25 am


      You can remove the DNA from the cells in your spit and look at it floating in the glass using kitchen supplies that the adults in your house may already have laying around. I say adults because it needs alcohol for one of the steps:https://www.popsci.com/how-to-extract-your-own-dna

      It’s a pretty neat experiment and extracting DNA using the same method in the lab with pure alcohols and detergents is quite common.

      Edit to add: like all science experiments, I don’t recommend drinking this… After all, it is made of spit, salt and washing up liquid.

    • Photo: Marianne King

      Marianne King answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      I like it that I burst my cells open they look like snot because all the DNA has come out. 🙂 This is my very non-clever answer.

    • Photo: Kate Timms

      Kate Timms answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      My best fact about DNA is that you don’t only have DNA in the nucleus of your cells, there’s also a ring of DNA in each of your mitochondria. Not only that, but seeing as we think that mitochondria were originally bacteria or something like it that we ‘domesticated’ into becoming part of ourselves, you actually have the DNA of hundreds of tiny ancient life-forms in each cell. That’s pretty amazing!

    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      1 single gram of DNA is capable of holding an amazing 700 terabytes of data

    • Photo: Kaitlin Wade

      Kaitlin Wade answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      There are SO MANY.

      DNA is structured like a double helix that twists and turns to be contained within each of our cells. Each turn of the double helix is 10 base pairs (bp) and in one copy of DNA in ONE CELL is about 3,200,000,000 bp long. So, on average, one chromosome has approximately 5cm of DNA and one copy of the whole genome in ONE of your cells is about 2 meters long! That means that if you were to combine all of the DNA in all of your cells at this very moment, you would have 60 billion kilometers of DNA! In terms of books, that’s more than 100 books, where the entire genome of one human being would take up way more than 1 million pages. That’s essentially 5,000 books stacked 200 feet high – if you go to the Wellcome collection in London, they’ve even done this! https://wellcomecollection.org/articles/WcvK4CsAANQR59Up

      The DNA code includes about 23,000 genes, which encode for proteins that have some sort of biological function within the body and make you who you are. HOWEVER, coding genes only take up 2% of your genome (THAT’S TINY!). So what else is in your DNA?? What is the other 98%? We originally thought it was “junk” – basically it did nothing – but we now know that the other 98% of your DNA is what makes each individual unique and each individual cell unique. If you think about it, you have the same DNA code within each of your cells. So what makes a heart cell different to an eye cell? Or a skin cell? Or a liver cell? It’s all the other stuff in your genome that helps regulate the coding bits (genes).

      Hope that’s a good fact 😀

    • Photo: David Wilson

      David Wilson answered on 12 Jun 2019:


      A raspberry has only 8 percent as much DNA as you or I. That’s expected; raspberries aren’t too smart or complex. But an onion isn’t very complex either, and it has more than 12 times as much DNA as the smartest person you can think of!

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