From the colour of your hair to the shape and size of your feet, Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) carries the unique biological information of your body. Strands of the complex molecule coil around each other and inhabit every single cell throughout you. At this very moment, there is enough DNA in your 10 trillion cells to reach the Sun from Earth 100 times. The complexity of DNA structures cannot be overstated but with access to some basic kitchen supplies, you can take the first steps toward learning more about how your body works.
In the BBC series Wonders of Life, particle physicist Brian Cox explored how you can isolate your DNA with nothing more than some washing up liquid, salt and alcohol.
To carry out the simple experiment you will need to prepare a glass test tube or a similar, small container.
You will then want to scrape the inner lining of our cheek with your tongue and build up a fair amount of spittle in your mouth.
Dr Cox said: “All I need to isolate my DNA is some washing up liquid, a bit of salt and the chemist’s best friend – vodka.
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“To get a sample of DNA I can just use myself. If I just swirl my tongue around on the edge of my cheek, I’ll dislodge some cheek cells into my saliva.”
Empty the saliva into the test tube and top it up with a small squeeze of your washing up liquid.
Give the two liquids a gentle mix and watch the detergent break up your saliva.
You will then need to add the salt, followed by a little alcohol on top of your solution.
Dr Cox said: “What this will do is it will break open the cheek cells and it will also degrade the membrane that surrounds the cell nucleus that contains the DNA.
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“Salt will encourage the molecules to clump together.
“DNA is insoluble in alcohol – you should get a layer of alcohol with the molecules precipitated out.”
If done correctly, your DNA will appear as “cloudy, white stripes” swirling in your saliva.
The isolated DNA might not be the purest sample of your genetic material but the experiment produces tangible results which you can observe at home or in the classroom.
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Dr Cox said: “In that cloudy, almost innocuous looking solid are all the instructions needed to build a human being.”
You can carry out the exact same experiment with something like strawberry pulp and see the DNA of the sweet fruit.
All living things on the planet, animal and plant alike, have their genetic material stored in DNA.
DNA is made of four chemicals, which pair up in various combinations to build and maintain a living body.
These bases are adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). Adenine always pairs with thymine and cytosine always pairs with guanine.
The sequence of these paired combinations determines the makeup of your body and is unique to you and you alone.
According to the US National Library of Medicine’s Genetics Home Research database, human DNA consists of about three billion bases.
One of the more crucial characteristics of DNA is the fact it can replicate itself, which is critical when cells divide and duplicate.
Source : EXPRESS