As a laboratory with a successful track record providing peace of mind and court-approved DNA testing, we understand the complexity of DNA and what it can tell us about human beings.

Our in-house geneticists analyse DNA samples every day to verify biological relationships between family members: from determining the identity of a child’s biological father, to confirming whether twins are identical or not.

But what is it that makes DNA so special? And how much does the average person know about this complex molecule?

In this blog, we’re taking a closer look at DNA, what it is, and 10 fascinating facts you may not know.

What is DNA?

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the incredible molecule that carries all our genetic information.  

It contains the genetic instructions that ensure living beings can properly develop, survive, and reproduce, with every human being inheriting half of their genetic material from each of their biological parents. 

DNA can be found in almost every cell in our body, except for red blood cells, making it an essential component in what makes us human.

Here are 10 more amazing facts about DNA that you may not know…

1. All human beings share approximately 99.9% of their DNA

Although every human being is unique in their own way, all of us share approximately 99.9% of our genetic material. This shared DNA ‘writes’ the code for all our cells and tells them how to function.

The tiny amount of DNA that differs (0.1%) is what makes us different from one another. This area of our DNA is responsible for determining our physical characteristics like eye colour, skull shape and skin colour.

2. It would take 50 years to type out the entire human genome

There are around three billion units that make up the human genome.

It would take around 50 years to type out the entire genome – but you’d need to type at 60 words per minute, for eight hours per day.

3. DNA is made up of four key building blocks

DNA molecules are made up of four chemical bases (nucleotides), which are the building blocks of nucleic acids: adenine (A), guanine (G), thymine (T), and cytosine (C).

4. If you stretched out the DNA in one cell, it would stretch to 2 metres long

If you did this for all the DNA in all your cells, it would stretch to approximately twice the diameter of the solar system!

5. Around 5-8% of our DNA isn’t human…

It’s viral DNA. Human beings are thought to carry around 100,000 pieces of DNA that we have accumulated from viruses over the entire course of our evolution.

6. We’re closely related to a creature called the star ascidian…

This flat, gelatinous creature is actually a colony of individual animals, that live among rocks and seaweed.

It’s also the closest invertebrate genetic relative to humans. We share around 77% of our DNA with the star ascidian.

7. …and even more closely related to primates

All human beings share 98.7% of their DNA in common with primates like gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees.

8. Genes only make up about 1-3% of your DNA

The rest of your DNA is thought to control the activity of your genes.

9. Our DNA undergoes small ‘mutations’ every day

All of us have some form of ‘mutation’ happening within our cells daily – but that doesn’t mean you’ll be a superhero anytime soon…

After all, these tiny ‘mutations’ in our DNA are what make us human, with such variants being responsible for differences in eye and hair colour, and blood types.

Hundreds of times per day, something happens within our DNA to cause ‘mutations’: this can be caused by a variety of things from exposure to UV radiation, to medication/drugs and viral infections.

Thankfully, our cells can quickly adapt to these changes, and most ‘mutations’ in our DNA are harmless or even helpful. In some cases, however, these mutations have been known to cause diseases (like cancer).  

10. It’s possible for one person to have two sets of DNA

Although rare, it’s possible for a human being to have two completely different DNA profiles.

This phenomenon is known as chimerism and can happen during pregnancy where the mother retains some of her baby’s DNA, or when a foetus absorbs its twin.

It can also occur in patients who’ve had bone marrow transplants, where the donor’s bone marrow continues to produce blood cells containing the donor’s DNA.

DNA testing you can trust

Our customers trust us to help them verify relationships between family members: whether you require DNA testing for legal matters, or simply want to perform a DNA test for your own personal information using one of our easy-to-use home DNA test kits.  

Our laboratory is accredited to the international quality standard ISO 17025, so you can be confident of receiving 100% accurate, reliable results based on the samples we receive at our laboratory.

For confidential advice on which test is best for you, call 01 402 9466 or email info@alphabiolabs.ie and our Customer Services team will be happy to discuss your needs.

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