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About… DNA

Posted by on in General Ideas

There are two references to make

1.   About Deoxyribonucleic-acid (DNA)

2.   About the book called DNA (Designing New Awareness)

The first one, deoxyribonucleic-acid, is a molecule that is essential to life as we know it, encoding and providing the genetic instructions of and for every living organism on this planet.

The molecule is a polymer, meaning a chain or “string” made of alternating sugar, deoxyribose, and phosphate groups. Attached to these are nucleobases. One could visualize it as an open charm bracelet with one part of the chain and an attached charm forming a unit, and many units making up the bracelet. The units are called nucleotides. Units can be added to form long chains, but there are only 4 nucleobases - Adenosine (A), Cytosine (C), Guanine (G) and Thymine (T).  Sequences of this 4 when attached to the sugars along the strand carry the genetic information that is needed for reproduction and procreation. Depending on the organism strands can be short or long. They started out short, but as life developed, have reached a considerable length. 

 Most of the strands or strings in the living organisms have paired up, are “married” to another strand. They are spiraling parallel to each other though run in opposite direction, just like males and females that have been nicely described as one coming from Mars the other from Venus. They are linked together by complementary fitting pairs of the 4 nucleobases. This structure is known as the double helix DNA. Imagine a twisted ladder going on no end. A long DNA has millions of pair bases, but these are always and only a combination of Adenine-Thymine, and Cytosine-Guanine pairs, meaning if one strand has Adenine the other can only be Thymine to connect, or Cytosine only fits Guanine. They are like fitting lock and key.

Of course DNA can be of varied shape and may contain other elements than the ones we see in our type the B-DNA, giving definitely thought to the possibility of alien live on other planets. “Alien life” may however live on earth concurrently with us as well. Bacteria have been found in places where we thought no life could exist. Well, we have been mistaken in so many things

However, our prolific life forms have developed with the given B-DNA configuration, using the most important ingredients of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen, helped by phosphate and of course who could forget our sun, providing the right temperature.

Humans carry their linear and lengthy double helix DNA, 46 of them, tightly packed in the cell nucleus, which are then called chromosomes. Genes are the sequences of DNA that contain the genetic information. A complete set of this information in an organism is called its genotype. Transmission of this information is facilitated by the complementary pairing of the nucleotide bases between the two strands. How this information is then translated into action is another ingenious use of the bases. It is done by codons or “3 letter words”, composed of bases, e.g.: TTT, GAT, ACG, etc, following meticulous rules that are generally known as the genetic code.

The double helix can separate along the links of the complementary nucleobases that join them together not unlike a zipper opening.  

Egg and sperm provide 23 chromosomes each of the parental set and when fertilization occurs these two connect with the other to form a new set of 46 chromosomes again, hence giving the new life the parental genetic information, and the opportunity to find its own unique expression. 

All evolutionary steps have been encoded and passed on. An incredible genetic memory has been collected; the approximately 3 billion of nucleobase pairs of the human genome are evidence of it, and to make it even more remarkable, it is observable in the development of the embryo. 

Not all living organisms procreate this way. Simple organism multiply by cell division and the genetic material is simply passed on by DNA replication. The double strands still need to separate, but the single strands are made complete again by an enzyme called DNA polymerase that seeks out the matching nucleobases. The fertilized egg in humans does undergo cell division as well in its initial stage; it multiplies to a so called morula before all other development goes ahead.

Since it is unlikely that evolution will stop any time soon, so will DNA continue to grow and collect data. DNA is active all the time, responding to environmental demands. 

However, it makes sense to hypothesize that DNA may have had a precursor, something even simpler but at this point in time, no evidence has been found yet. Some have suggested that DNA may have been imported from space by meteorites crashing on to Earth. Whatever is suggested, it does not diminish the significance DNA has in the evolution of life. Even if it came from space it is still part of our evolutionary history as our universe to which we all belong has preceded us all.

It is interesting that DNA sequencing actually helped to make advances in computer sciences as well, for instance developing string searching algorithms; data based theory and recently, information storage experiments, likely to lead to other advances.

DNA serves the progress in medicine, forensics, and as a matrix for nanotechnology. 

There are the pros and cons of humans being able now to manipulate DNA.  At present unfortunately it is rather a minefield and one should indeed tread carefully.  It is horrifying to consider gene alteration for the purpose of profit particularly under deceptive claims. For example, to engineer crops that are insect resistant would not be so shocking, but to kill the insects is, and that is exactly what these crops do. The crop does not deter the insects, it kills them. This kill has serious implications; just think about it, we may be wiping out far more than was intended.      

The DNA system is ingenious in its simplicity and mind-blowing in its intricacy.  Since the molecule was first discovered in 1869 by a Swiss physician it has come a long way. In 1953 Crick and Watson finally suggested the first correct double helix structure, which became the accepted model and for which they received the Nobel Prize in 1963.

A new era of medical research ensued, basically beginning in 1957 with Francis Crick establishing his dogma on molecular biology. Life at the level of molecules indeed is fascinating and it leaves us humans to ponder how we can live with the fact that we possibly are nothing more than chemical reactions with divine results.


DNA
, the title for the book, was chosen as a reference to the quality of the biological DNA that has given us humans a brain so highly functional and intellectual. The ongoing process can be called a process of design. It gradually enabled us to understand creation and become aware of our origin and destiny, hence DNA is designing new awareness.  

To make it clear, it does not mean that other life forms have not developed a highly specialized understanding of their worlds. We would not know about it, because we only experience the world in our modality. We cannot even imagine what a world of smells is like, that we know our dogs have, to give just one example. 

Life, as we know it, is a journey from A to B in a world of matter and time, with the DNA having its own journey. From humble beginnings and still travelling, it is the design, the author, providing the script, producer and director, all in one, working collaboratively, to ensure the ultimate goal of expression can be achieved. On its way to perfection all the incredible varieties are created, making planet Earth the wonderful world it is.

The book itself is an account of one of Femina’s journeys, a travel log, if you like.

You are invited to take the trip, and hopefully it inspires you to make your own, because your journey is the ultimate goal.

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Guest Monday, 18 December 2017