What is DNA?

What is DNA?

Our cells are protein making factories. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the instruction manual that tells our cells the shape, size, and function of each protein that it makes. Each protein is coded by its own little section of DNA called a gene.

DNA is made up of building blocks called nucleotides. There are 4 different kinds of blocks: Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine (G) & Cytosine (C). The specific order of these nucleotides in a gene forms the instructions, or code, for the cell to follow – like the words of a sentence.

The same way that binary numbers (0 and 1) can encode all our technology, and the 26 letters of the alphabet make up all the words in the English language, the language of our genome, i.e. the complete set of genes in a cell, consists of only 4 characters: A, T, G & C.

Image: “DNA, Chromosomes and Genes” by National Institutes of Health (NIH) is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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