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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.
Researchers identify novel molecular mechanism involved in progression, metastasis of TNBC

Researchers identify novel molecular mechanism involved in progression, metastasis of TNBC

New model may provide vital insights into life-saving treatment for CMV infection

New model may provide vital insights into life-saving treatment for CMV infection

New test identifies increased prevalence of tick-borne pathogen in Suffolk County

New test identifies increased prevalence of tick-borne pathogen in Suffolk County

Discrimination linked to greater probability of asthma in African American and Latino children

Discrimination linked to greater probability of asthma in African American and Latino children

Researchers reveal molecular details of how pathogens survive human immune responses

Researchers reveal molecular details of how pathogens survive human immune responses

Researcher aims to eliminate chemotherapy-resistant ovarian tumors using virus treatment

Researcher aims to eliminate chemotherapy-resistant ovarian tumors using virus treatment

Study paves way to develop noninvasive diagnostic test for colorectal cancer

Study paves way to develop noninvasive diagnostic test for colorectal cancer

Researchers use CRISPR technology to create new strain of red-eyed mutant wasps

Researchers use CRISPR technology to create new strain of red-eyed mutant wasps

Researchers show how dengue virus employs multiple tactics to evade immune detection

Researchers show how dengue virus employs multiple tactics to evade immune detection

New blood test can accurately, quickly identify genetic mutations linked to NSCLC

New blood test can accurately, quickly identify genetic mutations linked to NSCLC

Air pollution may directly affect biology of upper airways to cause chronic sinus problems

Air pollution may directly affect biology of upper airways to cause chronic sinus problems

MIT researchers develop new technique to make high-resolution images of tissues

MIT researchers develop new technique to make high-resolution images of tissues

New online genetic study aims to enroll 50,000 individuals and families affected by autism

New online genetic study aims to enroll 50,000 individuals and families affected by autism

Collaboration between Hamilton Robotics and Illumina creates noninvasive streamlined prenatal testing solution

Collaboration between Hamilton Robotics and Illumina creates noninvasive streamlined prenatal testing solution

Seeing genes inside living cells

Seeing genes inside living cells

DNA methods can help identify microbial hot spots in buildings

DNA methods can help identify microbial hot spots in buildings

Researchers correct Duchenne muscular dystrophy using gene-editing alternative

Researchers correct Duchenne muscular dystrophy using gene-editing alternative

Targeted treatment slows progression of two degenerative brain diseases in mice

Targeted treatment slows progression of two degenerative brain diseases in mice

'Human knockouts': Genetics in families reveals basic biology and possible therapeutics for disorders

'Human knockouts': Genetics in families reveals basic biology and possible therapeutics for disorders

Microparticles show potential to deliver DNA-based vaccines and gene therapies in pill form

Microparticles show potential to deliver DNA-based vaccines and gene therapies in pill form