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DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).

The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases, and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people. The order, or sequence, of these bases determines the information available for building and maintaining an organism, similar to the way in which letters of the alphabet appear in a certain order to form words and sentences.

DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs. Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule. Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a nucleotide. Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix. The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sidepieces of the ladder.

An important property of DNA is that it can replicate, or make copies of itself. Each strand of DNA in the double helix can serve as a pattern for duplicating the sequence of bases. This is critical when cells divide because each new cell needs to have an exact copy of the DNA present in the old cell.
TSRI researchers reveal how viruses incapacitate bacterial defense system

TSRI researchers reveal how viruses incapacitate bacterial defense system

Study identifies protein as potential therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer

Study identifies protein as potential therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer

Liquid biopsies that enable screening, early detection of cancer attract attention of investors

Liquid biopsies that enable screening, early detection of cancer attract attention of investors

Breakthrough technique harvests stem cells from urine to study Down syndrome

Breakthrough technique harvests stem cells from urine to study Down syndrome

Blood-sucking flies can act as 'flying syringes' to track emergence of new diseases

Blood-sucking flies can act as 'flying syringes' to track emergence of new diseases

Rogue proteins involved in breast cancer point to potential treatment options

Rogue proteins involved in breast cancer point to potential treatment options

Researchers develop two-pronged approach to personalize breast cancer treatment

Researchers develop two-pronged approach to personalize breast cancer treatment

High concentrations of stress hormone affect DNA processes and mental health

High concentrations of stress hormone affect DNA processes and mental health

Proteomics unravels molecular mechanisms influenced by genetic variations

Proteomics unravels molecular mechanisms influenced by genetic variations

MIT researchers develop new technique for early liver cancer diagnosis

MIT researchers develop new technique for early liver cancer diagnosis

Kent state researchers use DNA origami to create ‘nano cage’ for deeper study of cancer cell growth

Kent state researchers use DNA origami to create ‘nano cage’ for deeper study of cancer cell growth

Scientists show p300 protein may stop MDS from developing into leukemia

Scientists show p300 protein may stop MDS from developing into leukemia

Study shows how epigenetic randomness helps cancer cells proliferate

Study shows how epigenetic randomness helps cancer cells proliferate

FDA approves new maintenance therapy for recurrent cancers

FDA approves new maintenance therapy for recurrent cancers

New UBC research reveals clues to how bacteria proliferates in lungs of cystic fibrosis patients

New UBC research reveals clues to how bacteria proliferates in lungs of cystic fibrosis patients

Data protection in medical research: Computer scientists crack anonymity of genetic information

Data protection in medical research: Computer scientists crack anonymity of genetic information

Study shows how antibiotics increase survival chances of bacteria

Study shows how antibiotics increase survival chances of bacteria

Hamilton Robotics and Zymo Research team up to strengthen epigenetics research

Hamilton Robotics and Zymo Research team up to strengthen epigenetics research

AMSBIO launches new automation-friendly cell-free DNA purification kit

AMSBIO launches new automation-friendly cell-free DNA purification kit

Multipronged study of schizophrenia-associated syndrome receives $3.1 million NIH grant

Multipronged study of schizophrenia-associated syndrome receives $3.1 million NIH grant