When you look in the mirror, don't you wonder how our bodies know how to make us who we are?
The answer is DNA! Or the chemical deoxyribonucleic acid, which all genetic information is made up of.
DNA is a long chain of tightly wound up coded instructions which cells unravel, read and use to make proteins.
In cell nuclei, chunks of DNA are arranged into 46 individual or 23 pairs of chromosomes, half from each parent.
DNA is also a polymer of many nucleotides- a group including a sugar molecule, a phosphate group and a nitrogenous base.
These are linked together to make the double helix, the swirly ladder of two linked strands that you've probably on biology textbooks!
And all this genetic information in us is called our GENOME!
Another point is that cells read the code of the double helix in small chunks at a time, called a gene.
One gene makes one specific code, like hair colour, BUT we are blonde or brunette because there are different versions of one gene called alleles.
And like you have a unique allele cocktail for your appearance, we can use them to figure out someone's specific risk of disease, meaning understanding our genome is important in healthcare.
However, nothing is perfect, and when our genetic code unexpectedly changes, we call this a mutation.
BUT not all mutations are bad! Some can be useful like bigger teeth on a dinosaur, improving them as predators and helping their survival!
HOWEVER, while our DNA decides our appearance and personalities, making our unique phenotypes, mutations rarely affect the phenotype very much so we hardly see these genetic changes!
Genetic technology involves changing the genes already in an organism, which causes some divided opinions in agriculture and medicine.
In modern agriculture, the benefits include increased crop yields, increased crop qualities and encoding plants with insect and pest resistance, but world hunger is yet to be solved!
There is a strong argument that questions our right to interfere with nature, and that we don’t really know the long term consequences of changing plant DNA on other crops and the potential harm to our bodies like new allergies!
The same principles apply in medicine, where gene technology is heavily used in fertility and genetic testing.
Checking our genetics to assess our potential risk of disease and helping IVF parents to only select the genetically healthiest embryos to be born are major modern advantages.
The plus is that fewer diseases will be passed on, but is this playing God?
Embryo research is highly controversial, and some worry that IVF will be used to plan ‘designer-babies’!