What is DNA?

What is DNA?


What is DNA?

Most people have either heard, or used the abbreviation DNA . But do you know what DNA is ?

DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic acid. Deoxyribonucleic acid is a microscopic chemical string that is like the hard drive of living organisms —organisms  like you!

You’re probably familiar with a computer hard disk, right? The computer hard disk keeps all the necessary information the computer needs to function and execute programs. With computer hard disks, a very sharp needle reads the surface of the disk as it spins really fast to encode and extract the data. 

In biology, DNA is also a "hard drive" of sorts. DNA contains all the information the organisms needs to live (function), and to execute other programs or functions it may need to do.  However, this is where the computer hard drive analogy breaks down - the DNA 'hard drive' of living things isn’t a microscopic disk, but rather is more like a very long microscopic rollercoaster!

 

In this “microscopic rollercoaster” there are tiny cellular machines (like roller coaster cars) that glide upon the DNA (acting as roller coaster tracks). While the cars ride the DNA tracks, they are reading “instructions” that are embedded within the DNA. 

 

You’re not alone in wondering what DNA is!

Following charts are from Google Trends*

“DNA” is searched for on Google a lot. When you look at this chart, you’ll see a fun pattern. A “two-lump” pattern repeats every year. What is this from? When you look closely, you’ll see the peak searches happen in February and November, with a small trough in Dec/Jan and a large trough over the summer months. This must be a lot of students searching the web for resources about DNA!

Which country seems to be most interested in DNA? According to Google Trends, Finland! Out of the total number of Google searches of each country, Finland searches for DNA more frequently than others.

Learn “What is DNA?” by building a molecule of DNA yourself!

DNA is a bit more complex than a "hard drive" and "rollercoaster". One of the bext way to understand DNA is by trying out the (free) “What is DNA?”  simulator. In 15 minutes, you’ll have a good understanding of DNA, what its made of, and how it relates to genomes and chromosomes. You’ll even get to try building some DNA!