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: a long chain of tightly wound up coded instructions which cells unravel, read and use to make proteins.
DNA is what all genetic information is made up of, and in cells, chunks of DNA are arranged into 46 individual or 23 pairs of chromosomes.
DNA is structured in a double helix swirly ladder shape, and if you zoom in further, you’ll see it’s made of lots of units called nucleotides joined together, making DNA a big molecule or a polymer.
And all this genetic information in us is called our GENOME!
Another point to note is that cells look at the double helix in small chunks at a time, called a gene.
One gene makes one specific code, like hair colour! BUT we're blonde and 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, aren’t codes sometimes wrong? Of course! When there is a change in our genetic code, we call this a mutation.
BUT not all mutations are bad! Some can be useful like bigger teeth on a dinosaur made them better hunters!
Our DNA decides how we look and act, making our phenotype, and you might be surprised to know that mutations rarely affect the phenotype very much so we hardly ever see genetic changes!
Genetic technology involves changing the genes already in an organism, which causes some divided opinions in farming and medicine.
In farming, more crops, better quality crops and adding resistance to insects into their genome seems like the solution to world hunger, but some people have had bad reactions to these new plants like allergies!
Gene technology is heavily used in IVF to make sure the healthiest babies are picked to grow, and in genetic testing, a human's alleles are checked to see their risk of certain diseases.
The plus is that fewer diseases will be passed on and addressed better, but is this playing God? Embryo research is highly controversial, and some worry that IVF will be used to plan ‘designer-babies’.
Now have a go at answering some questions all about the genome and its impact on medicine!