DNA is a term that can get very complex very quickly, so today, we’re going to demystify it a little bit and explain it in terms that are easy to grasp. Simply put, our DNA defines the way we look, our cognitive and physical abilities, and much more. But how does it all work from a biological perspective?
Basic terms explained
Deoxyribonucleic acid (or DNA in short) is hereditary and most of the cells in a person’s body have the very same DNA. Essentially, DNA is a code that defines how susceptible we are to certain diseases, how well adjusted we are to a given environment, our mental and physical abilities, etc. Examining its shape, a DNA sample looks like a double helix, with DNA strands in the middle. A very important aspect of it is that DNA can make copies of itself, which is a very important element of how life is possible.
The link between DNA and developing certain health disorders
Since DNA is constantly subject to mutations, malformed proteins can form in place of healthy ones, which can lead to developing certain health disorders. It’s possible to inherit these mutations from your parents. However, you can also develop them during the course of your life. Some mutations come to be when the DNA duplicates itself and some are a direct result of external factors like UV radiation, viruses, or certain chemicals.
DNA mutations can be beneficial to an organism
Even though most DNA mutations are harmful to an organism, a few of them are actually beneficial. For example, some mutations can cause benign growths in bones that affect the mineral bone density of a person, which makes that individual more resistant to physical trauma like car crashes. Another type of mutation can make you more resilient to certain types of afflictions like malaria. Some may even give you what many would call a superpower; for example, by giving you tetrachromatic vision, a person could attain the ability of telling apart shades of colors that no other person can distinguish.
What can you learn with the help of DNA testing?
Have you ever wondered if one of your ancestors played a pivotal role in history or was famous in any other way? With the help of DNA testing, you can learn if there’s a connection between you and an important figure in the past. All you need to do is take a quick and simple DNA sample, ship it to the lab, and wait about 8 weeks before the report gets done. After that, you’ll have full access to your family history and may get to learn remarkable things about who you really are and what ancestors you’ve had.
In the modern times, we’ve managed to learn so much about genetics we can use this knowledge to achieve great things. Now, by analyzing one’s DNA sample, it’s possible to detect the precursors to various diseases, which could allow an individual to change his or her lifestyle to reduce the risk of falling ill. With how fast the science keeps advancing, there are many great things in store for our civilization in the future, which is all the more reason to be excited.