10 Interesting DNA Facts

How Much Do You Know About DNA?

DNA helix
DNA codes the genetic information of an organism. KTSDESIGN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid codes for your genetic make-up. There are lots of facts about DNA, but here are 10 that are particularly interesting, important, or fun.

Key Takeaways: DNA Facts

  • DNA is the acronym for deoxyribonucleic acid.
  • DNA and RNA are the two types of nucleic acids the code for genetic information.
  • DNA is a double-helix molecule built from four nucleotides: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C).
  1. Even though it codes for all the information that makes up an organism, DNA is built using only four building blocks, the nucleotides adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine.
  2. Every human being shares 99.9% of their DNA with every other human.
  3. If you put all the DNA molecules in your body end to end, the DNA would reach from the Earth to the Sun and back over 600 times (100 trillion times six feet divided by 92 million miles).
  4. Humans share 60% of genes with fruit flies, and 2/3 of those genes are known to be involved in cancer. 
  5. You share 98.7% of your DNA in common with chimpanzees and bonobos.
  6. If you could type 60 words per minute, eight hours a day, it would take approximately 50 years to type the human genome.
  7. DNA is a fragile molecule. About a thousand times a day, something happens to it to cause errors. This could include errors during transcription, damage from ultraviolet light, or any of a host of other activities. There are many repair mechanisms, but some damage isn't repaired. This means you carry mutations! Some of the mutations cause no harm, a few are helpful, while others can cause diseases, such as cancer. A new technology called CRISPR could allow us to edit genomes, which might lead us to the cure of such mutations as cancer, Alzheimer's and, theoretically, any disease with a genetic component.
  8. The closest invertebrate genetic relative of humans is a small creature known as the star ascidian or golden star tunicate. In other words, you have more in common, genetically speaking, with this tiny chordate than you do with a spider or octopus or cockroach.
  9. You also share 85% of your DNA with a mouse, 40% with a fruitfly, and 41% with a banana.
  10. Friedrich Miescher discovered DNA in 1869, although scientists did not understand DNA was the genetic material in cells until 1943. Prior to that time, it was widely believed that proteins stored genetic information.

 

View Article Sources
  1. Venter, Craig, Hamilton O. Smith, and Mark D. Adams. "The Sequence of the Human Genome." Clinical Chemistry, vol. 61, no. 9, pp. 1207–1208, 1 Sept. 2015, doi:10.1373/clinchem.2014.237016

  2. "Comparative Genomics Fact Sheet." National Human Genome Research Institute," 3 Nov. 2015.

  3. Prüfer, K., Munch, K., Hellmann, I. et al. "The bonobo genome compared with the chimpanzee and human genomes." Nature, vol. 486, pp. 527–531, 13 June 2012, doi:10.1038/nature11128

  4. "The Animated Genome." Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, 2013.