10 interesting things you probably did not know about your own DNA
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a molecule found inside every one of your cells, and in almost every cell in almost everything living on Earth. It would take more than 1,000 strands of DNA stacked atop each other to create something as thick as a strand of your hair, and if you stretched all the DNA from just one of your cells, the strand would be 6 feet long, “and all the DNA in all your cells put together would be about twice the diameter of the Solar System,” notes the BBC’s Science Focus.
Here are some other facts about the things that make us who we are:
1. By DNA standards, you are 99.9% identical to every other person on the planet. It’s that 0.1% difference in DNA make up that makes you unique.
2. As much as 8% of your DNA isn’t human—it’s descended from viruses picked up over the course of human evolution.
4. Although rare, it’s possible for a person to have two totally different DNA profiles—that’s thanks to a phenomenon known as “chimerization,” and it happens naturally in humans when, in the case of fraternal twins, one embryo dies early in pregnancy, and some of its cells are absorbed by the other twin. It also happens with bone marrow transplant recipients.
5. You’ve likely seen images of the iconic double-stranded DNA, but did you know there’s a four-strand DNA, too? Discovered in 2018, not a lot is known about i-motifs or what they are up to, but these images give you an idea at least of what they look like.
6. The International Space Station harbors the “Immortality Drive,” a microchip meant to act as a sort of time capsule if something happens to Earth. The drive contains a list of some of humanity’s greatest achievements and the digitized DNA sequences of notable Earthlings, including wrestler Matt Morgan, comedian Stephen Colbert, scientist Stephen Hawking, model Jo Garcia, author Tracy Hickman, and game designer Richard Garriott—and it was Garriott himself who ferried the Immortality Drive into outer space.
7. DNA is built for the long haul. The half-life of DNA, as estimated by researchers, is 521 years, meaning that, under ideal conditions, DNA can last for 6.8 million years. Bacterial DNA is even tougher, and short sequences have been found in ice that are 419 million years old.
8. The cost of at-home DNA testing is sinking, and the accuracy of those tests is improving. DNA kits from one company were recently on sale for just $59, while at-home paternity tests are just $15, plus the lab fee.
9. DNA may one day save us from having to store electronic data on thumb drives and hard drives. Researchers have found that DNA could prove to be a highly secure way to store data, with tremendous amounts of data able to be stored on DNA the size of a drop of liquid.
10. Need DNA in a hurry for research? Many researchers, doctors, and investigators do. Companies like Integrated DNA Technologies offer custom, synthetic DNA production, including lab-made single-stranded and double-stranded DNA fragments, delivered overnight.