When was DNA Discovered?

The human hereditary material known as deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a long molecule containing the information organisms need to both develop and reproduce. DNA is found in every cell in the body, and is passed down from parent to child. Although the discovery of DNA occurred in 1869 by Swiss-born biochemist Fredrich Miescher, it took more than 80 years for its importance to be fully realized. And even today, more than 150 years after it was first discovered, exciting research and technology continue to offer more insight and a better answer to the question. Why is DNA important?

Meaning of DNA

DNA is self-replicating material that’s in every living organism. In simplest terms, it is a carrier of all genetic information. It contains the instructions needed for organisms to develop, grow, survive, and reproduce. It’s one long molecule that contains our genetic “code,” or recipe.

This recipe is the starting point for our development, but DNA’s interaction with outside influences such as our lifestyle, environment, and nutrition ultimately form the human being.

Importance of DNA in Reproduction

In sexual reproduction, humans create special cells, called gametes, that contain but one set of 23 chromosomes. During fertilization, the father’s DNA unites with that of the mother to create a new, unique set of 46 chromosomes. This is how an ancestor’s traits are passed down to offspring. One particular chromosome in a gamete determines the gender of offspring. That chromosome can be the X or the Y: two X's create a female, while XY produces a male. As the fertilized egg begins to divide, different genes control how cells differentiate from each other, creating the various human tissues, organs and systems.

General Importance of DNA

  • DNA is important because it holds all of the genetic information that makes you, you. This information is needed for your development and survival and is able to be passed along to the next generation. It also influences your traits, ranging from what you look like to the food you like with lots of things in between.
  • Given how different you are from someone else, it might seem like everyone’s DNA should be very different from one another. Amazingly this is not the case. On average, you share around 99.5% of your DNA with someone you are not related to.
  • A big part of what makes you unique is found in that 0.5% of your DNA. And even though we’re overall more alike than different, everyone’s DNA tells a different story about who their relatives are and where they are from.
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