Friday, March 28, 2008

Understanding DNA/RNA

Nucleoproteins are chemicals in the nucleus of every living cell. They’re made of proteins linked to nucleic acids — complex compounds that contain phosphoric acid, a sugar molecule, and nitrogen-containing molecules made from amino acids.
Nucleic acids (molecules found in the chromosomes and other structures in the center of your cells) carry the genetic codes — genes that help determine what you look like, your general intelligence, and who you are. They contain one of two sugars, either ribose or deoxyribose. The nucleic acid containing ribose is called ribonucleic acid (RNA). The nucleic acid containing deoxyribose is called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
DNA, a long molecule with two strands twisting about each other (the double helix), carries and transmits the genetic inheritance in your chromosomes. In other words, DNA supplies instructions that determine how your body cells are formed and how they behave. RNA, a single-strand molecule, is created in the cell nucleus according to the pattern determined by the DNA. Then RNA carries the DNA’s instructions to the rest of the cell.
Knowing about DNA is important because it’s the most distinctly “you” thing about your body. Chances that another person on Earth has exactly the same DNA as you are really small. That’s why DNA analysis is used increasingly in identifying criminals or exonerating the innocent. Some people are even proposing that parents store a sample of their children’s DNA so that they’ll have a conclusive way of identifying a missing child, even years later.

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