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DNA 

Author
NMG Benefits
Category
Date
24 April 2023
4 min read

April 25th is celebrated as World DNA Day, which commemorates the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, and the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003. The discovery of the structure of DNA has been one of the most significant breakthroughs in the history of science, paving the way for the field of genomics. Revolutionising the understanding of genetics and its role in health and diseases. 

What is DNA?

DNA which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, is a molecule that contains the genetic instructions for the development and function of all living organisms. DNA is a molecule that carries genetic information in all living organisms. It is made up of a long chain of nucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA. Each nucleotide consists of a sugar molecule (deoxyribose), a phosphate group, and a nitrogenous base.

DNA is a double-stranded helix composed of four chemical bases: adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G). The order of these bases determines the genetic code, which provides the blueprint for the development and function of all living organisms. The sequence of these four bases along a strand of DNA is what determines the genetic code. Genes, which are sections of DNA, contain the instructions for making specific proteins. These proteins are the building blocks of cells and are responsible for several functions carried out by living organisms.

DNA structure was discovered on 25th April 1953, where it was proposed that DNA had a double Helix structure, consisting of two strands of nucleotides twisted around each other. The sugar and phosphate groups form the outside of the helix, while the nitrogenous bases form the rungs in the middle. The double helix structure of DNA allows for it to be replicated. When a cell divides, it needs to make a copy of its DNA, so each new cell has a complete set of genetic information. The process of DNA replication involves two strands of DNA separating and each strand is used as a template for the creation of a new strand. 

DNA is also a key factor in mutations in genetics or genetic code. Mutations occur spontaneously or can be caused by external factors, for example, radiation or chemicals. Some mutations can be harmful, while others may have no effect or may be beneficial.

Genetics

The Human Genome Project used our understanding of DNA to identify genes that are associated with disease. By mapping the human genome, researchers were able to identify specific genetic mutations which increase the risk of developing certain diseases. These diseases include breast cancer, Huntington’s disease, and cystic fibrosis. This information has led to the development of new diagnostic tests and targeted therapies, which are tailored to the individual patient based on their genetic profile.

DNA Uses

DNA has many practical applications. DNA testing can be used to identify individuals in forensic investigations or to determine paternity. DNA sequencing is used to study the genomes of organisms, which provides insight into their history to help develop new medicines and treatments for genetic diseases. 

DNA technology is further used in genetic engineering, which involves manipulating DNA to create desired traits to study gene function. An example is genetically modified crops that have been developed which are resistant to pests or are able to withstand harsh environmental conditions.

Understanding human genetics and DNA has had a further impact, in the personalisation of medication and medical care. Personalised medicine takes into account the genetic makeup of the individual patient. By analysing a patient's DNA, doctors are able to identify specific genetic mutations that contribute to disease and develop treatment and targeted therapy tailored to an individual patient's needs. This specific approach has been effective for a range of treatments for conditions which include, cancer, heart disease, and neurological disorders. 


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