What Is DNA? A Guide For The Beginner

Do you know what DNA stands for? Don’t worry, most people you know are in the same position as you. What you probably know is that DNA is hugely important, but you may not be sure exactly why. Without flooding you with information, below I’ve listed the basics of this crucial part of life as we know it.

Recommended reading: 4 Surprising Facts We Already Know About DNA

DNA is short for Deoxyribonucleic acid

Almost everyone has heard the acronym ‘DNA’ but few people really know what it means – let alone what those three letters stand for. DNA is short for Deoxyribonucleic acid and is a molecule that carries the genetic information of every known living organism, along with lots of types of virus – it’s the very essence of life.

DNA was discovered in 1869 by Friedrich Miescher

We’ve not always known that DNA was even a thing, less that it is so significant to our entire way of living. DNA was discovered by the Swiss biologist and physicist Friedrich Miescher, in 1869. Miescher arrived at his discovery by isolating nuclein, which has since been retitled to nucleic acids, from the nuclei found in white blood cells. Despite the work done by Miescher, it was Albrecht Kossel who crystalized the significance of DNA, which he did by looking at the chemical structure of DNA.

DNA is made up of two chains & one of four parts

As you may have spotted from the image at the start of this article, DNA is made up of two antiparallel chains – called polynucleotides. The two chains hold identical biological information, with this being duplicated at any points where the two chains separate from each other. The pair of chains in DNA is made up of more basic monomeric units, which are known as nucleotides. Nucleotides have one of four nucleobase parts – adenine [A], cytosine [C], guanine [G], or thymine [T].

DNA is arranged into chromosomes

I explained earlier how DNA is made up of two long strands, each of which contains one of four nucleobase parts, but that’s not all – of course. DNA is arranged into molecules called chromosomes which, in turn, are made up of DNA which is coiled around proteins which are known as histones.

What is the purpose of DNA?

Your body is made of an incredible amount of information which is used to make you the person you are – whether you have brown hair or blonde hair, blue eyes or green eyes, etc… The purpose of DNA is that it acts as a long-term storage device for all the information that is used to make you who you are. It’s such an effective storage device that scientists are using DNA as a template to solve our growing digital data needs.

DNA is a three letter combination that many of us know, but few of us truly understand – don’t worry, those who do often take years to get to grips with what it means and continue learning for the whole of their lives. While there’s much that goes into DNA, for the beginner there’s really only one thing to remember – DNA is where life starts and then continues, it’s the foundation of all living things.

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