Happy DNA Day! In case you have never heard of DNA day, April 25th is the day the scientific world celebrates the anniversary of the formal announcement of the discovery of the structure of DNA, as well as the anniversary of the Human Genome project being completed.
The race was on in the early 1950’s to determine what the actual structure of DNA was. When scientists James Watson and Francis Crick first made their discovery of Deoxyribonucleic Acid being a double helix, it was actually February 28th, 1953. Crick was reportedly so excited that he made a proclamation in a nearby pub that they had together found the secret of life. They waited until April 25 of the same year to properly announce their finding in Nature Magazine.
The Human Genome Project got its start in 1990 after United States scientists agreed upon the need to sequence the entire human genome. Questions about the consequences of radiation exposure on the body was one of the two major reasons why the project was deemed necessary. The other reason was to study the susceptibility of genes to cancer in individuals who had a family history of the disease.
As a result, all of today’s research pertaining to preventing hereditary illnesses were made possible because of the information discovered in this massive project.
With today’s medical testings, prospective parents can send their DNA samples to a lab to see if their future child may be at risk for mental or physical disorders prior to conception. For women pregnant for more than ten weeks, a blood test can be done to check for genetic abnormalities. During pregnancy, there is an exchange of blood from the fetus to the mother via the placenta.
By testing the blood, researchers will analyze the unborn baby’s DNA to see if it appears to have the standard 23 chromosomes. Any more or less is cause for serious concern since that could lead to serious mental and health-related problems. Although some chromosomal abnormalities are not as serious as others, some like Trisomy 13 could be fatal. In most cases it is better for the parents to know beforehand so they can prepare themselves emotionally and financially for the road ahead.
Studying genes isn’t all about health, either. The shows devoted to paternity tests you can watch on daytime television are made possible by DNA research. Thanks to the high accuracy of these genetic tests, mothers can now prove who is or who is not the father of their children with the option of doing so in front of millions of at home viewers. This is an oddly popular method for mothers seeking necessary support from a dubious potential father.
Law-abiding citizens of today’s age can now sleep a little better thanks to DNA results that place serious criminals behind bars. In the past, cases of murder and sexual assault would sometimes go unconcluded or would lead to false imprisonment. It is estimated that over 33,000 crimes have been solved nation-wide by using DNA evidence.
If you’ve ever wondered about which breeds make up your mutt, there’s now genetic testing for that too. WisdomPanel.com boasts that it can uncover your dog’s mysterious ancestry to help you give your dog a better life. Different breeds will have different health risks and dietary necessities as well as favorite activities. With over 190 different dog breeds, the revelation might surprise you. By understanding your dog’s physical and emotional needs it could give you the power to make sure Fido is happier and healthier than ever before.
DNA can also solve some of the most intriguing puzzles stemming from long ago, such as the origins of the Basques in Europe. Early history of the ambiguous European people who have inhabited northern Spain and Southern France for as long as written history goes back. The Basque use their own distinctive language which appears to be unrelated to any language on Earth, adding to the mystery of their ancestry. Scientists studied the genomes of ancient skeletons found in the area to discover that the Iberians of Europe were indeed relatives of the Basques.
The skeletal remains of King Richard III of England, were found under a parking lot in 2012. Historical recordings now thought to be made by his enemies described him as a decrepit hunchback. By looking at his bone structure itself that was slightly curved but by no means strikingly deformed, it would leave historical scholars to believe that it may not be the famous former king. It took DNA testing that matched him to one of his direct descendants to conclusively determine that the body found was indeed King Richard III.
Ancestry.com, a site devoted to helping its users discover their family history now offers a DNA test that could link its members to family members that they’ve never met or even heard of. The service will compare the genetic makeup of members who have taken the test to match its related users with each other. Since this service is relatively new, it could take time to garner a high number of participants and thus produce a substantial number of matches. The test also claims to be able to identify the ethnic percentages of the individuals looking for the answers to their origins.
With over 30% of Americans being over-weight, scientists have been researching a genome-based diet that they hope to have completed by 2020. What they do know now is that the majority of fat production in humans is based on genetics. If they could analyze the DNA makeup of people on the individual level, they could potentially formulate a diet perfect for anyone. Research of this type is expensive however and it may be even longer before DNA dieting becomes available.
In conclusion, DNA research has come a long way since 1869 and thanks to the latest technologies we can look forward to advancements in health and medicine as well as uncovering otherwise unsolvable mysteries of the past. Those who have contributed to DNA deserve our gratitude and praise not only on this day but every day of the year.