DNA is something that was first discovered back in the 19th century, but it is only in the last 40 years that it has become commonplace in day to day life.
Since the first time, DNA was used in a criminal investigation, the full potential of this integral part of our being has been realized.
You probably will have heard of companies like 23 and Me who offer home DNA kits to discover your ancestry, and you definitely will have heard of DNA kits being used to determine paternity when the father is unknown.
But where exactly is DNA found?
We’ll be answering this question and lots more in this guide, so please keep reading.
What is DNA?
DNA is one of those things that you definitely will have heard of, but you might not fully understand what it is. We are taught about it in schools and given a basic understanding through biology lessons, but there are so many things about DNA that we are not taught.
DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid and is a molecule that is constructed of 2 polynucleotide chains that are intertwined together to form the double helix structure that we all know and associate with DNA. This double helix system holds a lot of instructions for our genetics and carries information about development, growth, and reproduction in all organisms.
In human beings, there is a lot of value placed on DNA because we value it as an integral part of our being. Our DNA is unique and personal to us, and once a sample of your DNA is placed on file it can literally be used to connect you to the places you have been. It can also be used to trace back in history, and this is one area where DNA testing has become incredibly popular.
With companies such as Ancestry and 23 and Me offering home DNA kits as a way to access potential relatives on your family tree, DNA tests have become commonplace in the home. Traditionally, DNA tests would be associated with potential criminals, paternity tests, and other fields similar to this.
Whereas now, it is commonplace for home DNA kits to be given to friends and family members as Christmas or Birthday presents, because of the access they give you to your history. With that in mind, let’s take a look at where DNA is found.
Where is DNA Found?
There is a good chance that you have a rough idea of where DNA is located. We’ve already established that it is a molecule, but where exactly is it found? Let’s talk about human beings. We know that DNA is something that is located within our body.
DNA is a molecule, and our bodies are constructed of cells, approximately 30 trillion of them to be exact. The DNA molecules are found within these cells, however, not all of these cells will contain DNA.
While the majority of cells will carry our DNA within them, a lot of more mature cells, including red blood cells, and mature skin, hair, and nails will not carry our DNA.
The basic knowledge of cells that we are taught in high school, might mislead you into thinking that your DNA is just floating around within each of these cells. This isn’t the case, your DNA is actually tucked away in a special compartment within each cell.
You might recall the word Nucleus from your time in school, this is the circular shape that is drawn within a diagram of a cell, and this is actually where our DNA is located.
But what about in other organisms? Human beings are unique to other living beings, and as DNA is located in all organisms, including plants, it isn’t a surprise that their DNA can be found in different locations to where you would find it in a human being.
So in plants and other organisms, like dogs and all other animals, their DNA will not be located in the same cells as human beings. You will still more than likely locate DNA within the nucleus of their cells, however, their cells will be very different from ours and this is clearly depicted in different diagrams used to outline cells.
What is the Function of DNA?
So now that we have an understanding of DNA, let’s take a look at what the function of it is. The main function of DNA is to store information within it. We’ve already mentioned that DNA is essential in carrying information about development and other key things for our life.
The DNA acts as a long term information storage system for our cells as it contains all the instructions that are necessary for the control and components of that cell.
Based on this information, the DNA outputs instructions for the cell to follow in order for it to develop, grow, survive, and reproduce. These instructions are output in sequences which are then computed and converted into messages that can instruct the cell to complete these tasks that are essential for survival.
Once this information is converted, our bodies will produce proteins which are essentially the cells within our body that do all the essential work to keep us alive.
As well as being the important boss that informs our cells what they need to do to survive, DNA also has another purpose. This is to pass genetic information down through our family lines.
When reproduction occurs between two adults, genetic material from both parents will be passed down to the child. It is this fundamental biological function that has created the basis for family lineage, and essentially constructed what we see as a family in the modern-day.
This is how companies like Ancestry can use a home DNA kit to trace back your history and provide connections to possible relatives who have also completed DNA kits connected to the company. But we won’t say too much about that just yet, first let’s take a look at what we can do with DNA.
What can we do with DNA?
DNA was first discovered by scientists in the 1800s, but it is only since its connection with criminal activity in the 1980s that DNA has really become commonplace in today’s culture.
To the newer generations, it might seem baffling that before 1986, DNA was not recognized as a tool used in criminal investigations.
In today’s culture, DNA is the center of pretty much every criminal investigation, you can’t watch a crime drama without them tying the bad guy to the crime scene with his DNA, or someone wiping away their fingerprints with the sleeve of their shirt. So it can be very confusing that up until the 1980s criminal investigations were run on testimony alone.
Although DNA is most commonly associated with criminal activity, it can also be used in a variety of other uses. But all the different uses center around one main function, and that is identification. Our DNA is unique to us, so extracting DNA from cells can be used to identify us.
In criminal investigations, this is completed by cells that have been shredded onto the crime scene such as dead skin and hair cells. It can also be used to identify biological parents for adopted children or confirm a father when paternity is unclear.
In these cases, DNA is extracted from all parties and analyzed for the key similarities that prove a genetic connection between them. However, this is usually done through a swab of the inside of the cheek or spitting in a tube, rather than through analyzing dead cells.
Swabbing, or spitting, is the same process used by companies such as Ancestry, and 23 and Me, to find historical genetic connections. These companies have capitalized on the invention of home DNA kits and taken them in a new fun way, where your DNA can be used to unlock your history.
These companies have a huge DNA database that is compiled with millions and millions of data that allows them to make generalizations and connections between your DNA and the DNA of different ethnic groups.
As well as providing you with connections to your family history, these tests will also give you an ethnicity estimate and your own ethnicity breakdown.
These same companies have also started to use DNA in another function, and that is to provide information about your health. 23 and Me was one of the first companies to offer a ‘health and wellbeing’ DNA test, and since then a lot of other companies have started to offer them too.
These tests compare the DNA you submit against well-known genes that have been connected with health conditions and illnesses, giving you a percentage of whether you are at risk of these or not.
While these tests might not be for everyone, they are a great way to show how commonplace something that is hidden within our cells, has become a modern-day life.
In short, DNA can be located within the nucleus of the majority of the 30 trillion cells that construct us as human beings.
This DNA can then be extracted and used for a variety of different things that are common in life today.
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