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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Powerful DNA 'Editing' Has Arrived, Are We Ready for It?
Red Cas9 nuclease protein, CRISPR
August 6th, 2015
CRISPR/Cas is a new technology that allows unprecedented control over the DNA code. The gene editing technique also raises concerns.
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Should You Take Out a Perfectly Good Prostate?
hospital care
June 11th, 2015
Preemptive prostate removal may become more common, and may save lives.
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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.
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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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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.
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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.
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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.
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Real-Life 'Jurassic World' Dinos May Be 10 Years Off, Scientist Says
Jurassic World
June 16th, 2015
The film "Jurassic World" stars a massive chicken-based dinosaur that was created in a lab. The genetically altered behemoth, dubbed Indominous rex, is fictitious, but one famed dinosaur hunter says the idea is not so far-fetched.
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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.
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