7 facts about DNA you should know
What makes each and every one of us unique? Some would say our soul and personality, but if we talk about more down to earth aspects it’s our DNA – Deoxyribonucleic acid. It is a molecule that stores all biological information and genetic instructions of every living species. It is our “classes and methods” of biological programming – the basis of life. So what interesting facts you should know about those swirly little things inside of all living organisms?
1. Your DNA is 99,9% similar to any human being on Earth
It’s truly magnificent fact, but 2 individuals from completely opposite sides of the Earth share 99,9% of the same DNA, and that is true for every other human being. With all these diversity of races, ethnicities, cultures and ancestors we all, men and women, are 99,9% the same. This is the ultimate argument against racism and war.
2. 8% of your DNA isn’t human— it’s viral
There is a quite common misunderstanding among people that “genes” are something that we are born with and can’t be changed during the lifetime – wrong! DNA molecule can be damaged just like every other molecule in your body. Many repair mechanisms mend our broken DNA but some damage stays for life. What’s even more – a virus can add its DNA to your own and it can be inherited by your children! Now imagine how much viral DNA was accumulated over thousands of generations since the dawn of the humanity? The precise number would be 8%. Lucky for us, most of this DNA is harmless, and in some cases – even helpful. Who knows, maybe evolution of the human brain is just a result of viral DNA?
3. Entire length of all your DNA is more than 600 trips to the Sun
Lets imagine that we can take DNA, unbound and straightened it out – we would have 6-foot long strand. In a thing that you can’t even see… Impressive, right? Considering that there are about 100 trillion cells in your body, all the DNA molecules put together end-to-end would make about 1200 astronomical units (the distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is approximately 92 mln miles). So it’s a six hundred trips to the Sun and back – in one person. Now you can proudly say that you have a small solar system inside of you.
4. 99,4% of your DNA is commonly shared with chimpanzees
Scientists sequenced the genome of chimpanzees and found that humans are 99,4% similar to them. There were several sequences of genetic code that differ between humans and chimps, which would likely explain human-specific traits such as speech. But we really do have a lot of striking similarities with the great ape species. The number of genetic differences between humans and chimps is ten times smaller than the differences between mice and rats. Maybe Darwin was on to something…
5. There is an “Immortality Drive” aboard the International Space Station that contains the DNA of distinguished people in case human race ever needs to be resurrected
In 2008, a Russian spacecraft flew a small memory device with digitized DNA sequences of some prominent figures like Stephen Hawking, Lance Armstrong, Stephen Colbert, and Jo Garcia. Its purpose is to provide the building blocks to resurrect humanity if an apocalyptic event were to destroy Earth. For better or for worse, aliens could probably make a nice humans out of this.
6. There Are Some Creatures Whose DNA Renders Them Virtually Immortal
The science of aging, or senescence, is vastly complicated, but broken down into layman’s terms, our DNA is subject to entropy. That is, with each cellular replication, it becomes a little weaker or less efficient. But there are some species whose DNA does not appear to break down over time (or at such a reduced rate as to be almost unobservable). Lobsters, some fish, and many tortoise species do not appear to age, and under completely optimal circumstances, could essentially live forever. This is called negligible senescence. The oldest tortoise on record was Adwaita, an Aldabra Giant Tortoise that lived to be 255 years old. It is important to note that such animals, while they do not appear to succumb to old age, are still subject to diseases, injury, etc. and the longer an animal lives, the greater its chances of eventually acquiring such a condition. Adwaita died to liver failure after his shell was cracked.
7. DNA is the World’s Best Digital Storage Media
Although the rudiments of storing digital media in DNA have been around since the 1980s, it was only last year that Harvard researchers truly cracked the code. They were able to store 700 terabytes of data on a single gram of DNA. 700 terabytes is the equivalent of some 330lbs worth of hard drives, all in a liquid medium that could easily fit on a fingertip. With current technology, the sequencing of the DNA to retrieve the information takes hours and is extremely costly, so the practicality of this form of storage is limited, but it is truly amazing to think the whole of human knowledge and creation could be stored in a space no larger than your closet.