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DNA Day April 25, 2020

April 25th is National DNA Day which commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA’s structure, the double helix, in 1953. There are many events being held nationwide as part of National DNA Day, an observance promoted by the National Institutes of Health. This annual celebration offers students, teachers and the public many exciting opportunities to learn about the latest advances in genomic research and explore how those advances might impact their lives.

 

What is DNA?

DNA is perhaps the most famous biological molecule and is present in all forms of life on earth. Did you know your dog has DNA? Even your cactus has DNA. In humans, DNA tells our body how to grow and function. DNA also controls how we look and even plays a role in how we act. The reason one person has blue eyes and one person has brown eyes is in our DNA.

 

What does DNA look like?

In 1953 a group of scientist figured out that DNA looks like a double helix. These scientists won the Nobel Prize for this discovery. Imagine a beautiful house that has a spiral staircase. DNA sort of looks like that spiral staircase. But DNA is so small that we cannot see it with our eyes, we need special scientific equipment to be able to see it. For it to get that small, the DNA helix will wrap itself up and make itself smaller. This is so that it can fit into the tiny building blocks of our body called cells and direct the cells on how to grow and act.

 

What is the Human Genome Project?

In 2003 they had finally done it! They had mapped the human genome. But what does that mean? Well the genome is made of DNA and is the instructions for how to build a person. Scientists around the world came together to figure out how to read this instruction manual and how to record what they were reading. It took 13 years and $2.7 billion dollars to record the human genome and even though it is recorded, there is still a lot we don’t know. Some of the information that was collected is still not understood but a lot of it is. For example, did you know:

If you eat cilantro and experience a soapy taste, you may have a change in part of your DNA that allows your tongue to detect soapy tasting aldehydes which can be found in cilantro. Even though anyone who eats cilantro is eating these aldehydes, only certain people can taste them, and that is controlled by our DNA.

Do you have dimples in your cheeks? If so, then you have a part of your DNA that instructs your cheeks to have those cute little indents.

Do you find it challenging to tell the difference between the colors red and green? If so, then your colorblindness is also controlled by your DNA.

DNA is amazing. It creates all life on Earth. It makes roses smell beautiful, if gives babies those chubby little legs, it even protects us from certain diseases. Let’s make sure that today we celebrate DNA and our ability as humans to learn from it and continue unraveling the secrets of life.


Rachel Mador-House Genetic Counselor Ironwood Cancer & Research CentersAbout Rachel Mador-House, CGC, MS, MS

Rachel Mador-House is an American Board Certified Genetic Counselor. Rachel obtained her Master’s Degree in Genetic Counseling from California State University in 2017 where she completed her Cancer Genetics training at the University of San Francisco Cancer Risk and Prevention Program. During her training, she was awarded a competitive Master’s Internship at Kaiser Permanente, where she worked as a Genetic Counseling Consultant.