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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Plant-Derived Nanotubes Provide Personalized DNA Delivery
Plant-derived nanotubes
April 15th, 2014
Tiny tubes deliver functioning genes to cells with broken copies.
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Obesity Genes? Fried Foods Worse for Some People
dna strand, telomeres, health
March 18th, 2014
People with certain genes may be more susceptible to the fattening effects of fried food, a new study suggests.
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How Personality Increases Risk of Drug Abuse
April 15th, 2014
People with certain personality traits may at increased risk for drug use problems, and studying personality may help researchers better understand and treat these problems, according to a new review.
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Pine Tree Yields Longest Genome Ever Sequenced
March 21st, 2014
Scientists say they've generated the longest genome sequence to date, unraveling the genetic code of the loblolly pine tree, which is seven times longer than the human genome.
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There May Be Plant DNA Floating in your Blood (But That's OK) (Op-Ed)
blood test, plant dna, dna
February 25th, 2014
The single research paper making this claim, on which the news article is based, is yet to be replicated. But it is more important to note that, even if there is plant DNA in your blood, there is no evidence that it poses a risk to you.
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Devastating Plague Strains Arose Twice, Could Return
Bacterium that causes plague
January 27th, 2014
Scientists say that the two great bubonic plagues — the Black Death (14th century) and the Plague of Justinian (6th century) — aren't connected after all, and were caused by different bacterial strains.
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How Obesity May Raise Breast Cancer Risk
dna strand, telomeres, health
April 11th, 2014
Women with a certain genetic marker may be at increased risk for breast cancer, especially if they are overweight or obese, a new study suggests.
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Sea Anemones Are Half-Plant, Half-Animal, Gene Study Finds
sea anemone
March 20th, 2014
The genome of the sea anemone suggests this ancient creature shares many traits with both plants and animals.
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Richard III DNA Test Sparks Controversy
facial reconstruction of King Richard III
February 25th, 2014
The University of Leicester plans to sequence the full genome of medieval king Richard III, but not everyone thinks the gene sequencing is scientifically relevant or ethical.
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