DNA and Genes

Genes are the blueprints of life. Genes control everything from hair color to blood sugar by telling cells which proteins to make, how much, when, and where. Genes exist in most cells. Inside a cell is a long strand of the chemical DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). A DNA sequence is a specific lineup of chemical base pairs along its strand. The part of DNA that determines what protein to produce and when, is called a gene.</p> <p>First established in 1985 by Sir Alec Jeffreys, DNA testing has become an increasingly popular method of identification and research. The applications of DNA testing, or DNA fingerprinting within forensic science is often what most people think of when they hear the phrase. Popularized by television and cinema, using DNA to match blood, hair or saliva to criminals is one purpose of testing DNA. It is also frequently used for other benefits, like wildlife studies, paternity testing, body identification, and in studies pertaining to human dispersion. While most aspects of DNA are identical in samples from all human beings, concentrating on identifying patterns called microsatellites reveals qualities specific and unique to the individual. During the early stages of this science, a DNA test was performed using an analysis called restriction fragment length polymorphism. Because this process was extremely time consuming and required a great deal of DNA, new methods like polymerase chain reaction and amplified fragment length polymorphism have been employed. The benefits of DNA testing are ample. In 1987, Colin Pitchfork became the first criminal to be caught as a result of DNA testing. The information provided with DNA tests has also helped wrongfully incarcerated people like Gary Dotson and Dennis Halstead reclaim their freedom.
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Cobwebs Hold Genetic Secrets About Spiders and Their Prey
A black widow and cricket in a web.
November 25th, 2015
An empty spider web isn't a mystery; it's a clue.
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Beyond the Helix: 'Supercoiled' DNA Twists into Crazy Shapes
supercoiled dna
October 12th, 2015
From a pair of handcuffs to a tennis racquet, supercoiled DNA takes on crazy, fantastical shapes, new research reveals.
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Beauty or Beast? Why Perceptions of Attractiveness Vary
A young couple takes a picture of themselves using a smartphone.
October 1st, 2015
What determines who you think is attractive, nature or nurture?
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You Share 70% of Your Genes with This Slimy Marine Worm
November 18th, 2015
What do you have in common with a filter-feeding, deep-sea worm? On a genetic level, it's a lot more than you might suspect.
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Teens Want to Know Genetic Test Results
dna, double helix
October 9th, 2015
When it comes to genetic testing, teens want to be kept in the know.
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Nature's GMOs: Parasites Alter Butterfly Genomes Using Viruses
Monarch Butterfly
September 18th, 2015
Genetically modified organisms may usually be thought of as human creations, but scientists now find that monarch butterflies, silkworms, and many other butterflies and moths naturally possess genes from parasitic wasps.
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Shake, Rattle and Build: Colliding Bricks Self-Assemble Into Objects
Self-Assembling Bricks
July 30th, 2015
Scientists shook "bricks" in a spinning chamber, and for the first time, showed that artificial building blocks can put themselves together just by banging around at random.
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Trio Wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Finding DNA Fixers
A photo of DNA.
October 7th, 2015
This year's Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to three scientists whose research helps explain how human beings continue to thrive despite an invisible disadvantage — their totally unstable DNA.
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How Old Are You Really? Genes Reveal 'Biological Age'
A woman's face as she ages
September 6th, 2015
Do you know your biological age? It's not the same as your chronological age.
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