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.
Read More
Cancer May Leave Early Warning Signs in Cheek Cells
A woman lights a cigarette in a dark room
May 15th, 2015
Smoking may cause changes in cells that are linked cancers beyond lung cancer, including breast and gynecological cancers, a new study finds.
Read More »
Slave-Trade Fossils Help Uncover Shrouded History (Podcast)
Skull fragment from 17th-century slave
May 1st, 2015
Ancient DNA is now helping identify specific origins of slave skeletons found in Caribbean.
Read More »
More Infidelity Uncovered in King Richard III's Family Tree
the skeleton of King Richard III.
March 25th, 2015
After scientists uncovered evidence of infidelity in Richard’s family tree last year, they announced today (March 25) that they discovered more hints of daddy drama in the historical family.
Read More »
Do Mosquitoes Love You? Blame Your Genes
twins in mosquito experiment
April 22nd, 2015
Scientists don't fully understand why mosquitoes prefer biting some people to others. But a new experiment suggests genes have something to do with it.
Read More »
Bio-Art: 3D-Printed Faces Reconstructed from Stray DNA
3D Portraits Created From DNA Analysis
March 16th, 2015
Could genetic information that is left on cigarette butts, chewed gum and fingernail clippings be harnessed for nefarious purposes?
Read More »
Nobel Prize Medal Fetches Record-Breaking $4.76 Million
Watson's Nobel Prize medal.
December 5th, 2014
James Watson has a new claim to fame: His Nobel Prize medal just sold for a record-breaking $4.76 million.
Read More »
Your Personal Microbes Can Single You Out
artist rendering of bacteria
May 11th, 2015
The plethora of microbes on your body are unique to you — so much so that they might be used to identify you from hundreds of others, a new study suggests.
Read More »
A Longer Life May Lie in Number of Anti-Inflammatory Genes
In an artist's image of DNA, a person's glowing hand hold a strand of genetic material.
April 7th, 2015
Researchers found that animals with more copies of certain genes -- which are involved in fighting inflammation -- have longer life spans.
Read More »
How Genes and Environment Conspire to Trigger Diabetes
Fruits and vegetables, and a blood sugar monitor.
January 20th, 2015
Environmental factors such as diet may alter the expression of genes to cause, and reverse diabetes, new research finds.
Read More »