Home > DNA Basics > What is DNA?

What is DNA?

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 1 May 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
Humans Organism Dna Cytosine Guanine

Most people have become somewhat familiar with the term 'DNA' in the last decade but may still have many unanswered questions or confusion about precisely what DNA is and how it is important to us. There is also quite often confusion around the concepts of DNA and chromosomes - the distinction is an important one. A chromosome is comprised of DNA and has proteins attached to it. These chromosomes are found in your body's cells, which then contain this important genetic information held in the long strands of DNA.

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA)

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid and is important primarily because it is inherited material found in humans and most other organisms. Just how much of this information is inherited, however, is still under debate but scientific research has shown a great number of strong similarities in DNA between humans and also between humans and other animals, supporting inheritance and evolution. In fact, most cells in your body have the exact same DNA, which is found in the cell's nucleus or less abundantly in the cell's mitochondria. These two kinds of DNA are known as nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA, respectively. You may be curious to know how DNA is actually stored within cells. It is made up of four bases known as:
  • Adenine
  • Guanine
  • Cytosine
  • Thymine

Billions of Bases

In human DNA, the number of bases is actually enormous. Consider that there are approximately three billion bases found in human DNA and that almost all of these are the same in each person. In fact, the order of these four bases - the DNA sequence - is responsible to build and sustain an individual. DNA can replicate, which means it creates copies of itself, an important feature. Every DNA strand is essentially a pattern for copying a specific sequence of bases.

This copying mechanism is vital to ensure that every new cell created has a copy of the genetic material from the old cell. When DNA bases pair with one another, they form something called base pairs. In DNA, adenine pairs with thymine and guanine pairs with cytosine. Every base is also joined to a sugar molecule and a phosphate group. Together, the base, sugar and phosphate form a unit called a nucleotide. It is the nucleotides that are neatly arranged in two long strands that twist to form a double helix. To get an accurate mental image of DNA, try picturing a long ladder, where the base pairs constitute the rungs of the ladder and the phosphate and sugar molecules make up the vertical parts of the ladder.

Your Blueprint for Life

DNA is quite frequently called the 'blueprint' of an organism, mostly since it allows the cells to come together in a cooperative way to provide a functional organism. While there is still a great deal we do not know about DNA, we do know that it controls and exerts influence on many different characteristics and features of humans. No doubt, as research continues, we will learn even more about DNA and can apply this knowledge to many important applications in human life.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
My daughter at age 23 experienced a tragic injury where she was in a coma and had a complete blood transfusion.How does this affect her DNA now?Thank you,Kathy Ratliff
Kathy - 10-Oct-15 @ 9:14 AM
I've been tould that another man is my father ;) his in a coma in hoisptal , can he still give blood to do a D N Athank you Rose Clark
Lou - 11-Aug-15 @ 3:38 PM
Dear Mr. Ian Murnaghan My name is Luana Luna. I am a criminal justice student at East Los Angeles College. I am writing to thank you writing these articles. I will be using this information to do my poster board on Forensic DNA that I will presenting to my class as well as some professionals in the forensic field at the IAI Conference this August. Thank you LuanaLuna
Luana - 12-May-15 @ 10:15 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • annabanna
    Re: All About DNA and Proteins
    very good information and easy to understand
    26 March 2020
  • LivLee
    Re: The Properties of DNA
    Can somebody please tell me at least 5 or more characteristics/facts about DNA?
    4 March 2020
  • Patty
    Re: DNA Testing for Pets
    Can you test my dogs ashes just for breed so I know I got the right ashes back?
    2 March 2020
  • Julia
    Re: The Importance of DNA
    I've been looking for the roles and challenges of DNA in modern biology Pls I need help on it
    2 March 2020
  • Vennah
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    I lost my Baby last year may and the father is saying that the child is not his i have a 5year old child by him what can l doo too proof to…
    12 February 2020
  • Seahawk
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    My wife of 30 years was wrongfully convicted of trumped up charges from the prosecution no evidence at all, she had seizures and kept telling…
    2 February 2020
  • yoks
    Re: DNA Testing for Pets
    my best friend jakey passed away and i wish to adopt another dog through jakes lineage jake was microchipped twice and i still have his…
    20 January 2020
  • Building
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    Why is a building called a building if it’s already built?
    14 January 2020
  • Joe
    Re: DNA Test after Death
    One sunny day joe was in a great mood. Bob saw him from the other side of the room. But little did he know he was a horny bastard. Joe felt…
    13 January 2020
  • Slave Owner
    Re: An Overview of DNA Functions
    I hate Abraham Lincoln I was fine with my Slaves, they would do everything for me and now they are all released, we should kill…
    13 January 2020