All About DNA and Genetic Inheritance
What is DNA?
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the body's instruction manual for making you who you are. It is present in any living being. It carries all of the instructions for making all of the structures and materials the body needs to function. All of the cells of an individual contain the same DNA, essentially creating a specific identity for that individual.
DNA is a nucleic acid (a chemical) capable of self-replication, producing an identical copy of itself. DNA consists of two long chains of nucleotides twisted into a double helix (think spiral staircase) and joined by weak hydrogen bonds between the complementary base pairs adenine (A) and thymine (T) or cytosine (C) and guanine (G). Base pairs form naturally only between A and T and between C and G, so the sequence of each single strand can be deduced from that of its partner. The specific sequences (patterns) of nucleotides represent particular genes, determining individual hereditary characteristics.
How do I inherit physical traits from my parents?
DNA is established at conception, and does not change throughout your life. You receive one-half of your DNA from your mother and one-half from your father. DNA is what allows for the transmission of genetic material from one generation to the next. When your fatherís sperm and your motherís egg cells combine at fertilization, they create your genetic sequence in 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 total).
How can you test DNA to determine a family relationship?
Depending on the type of relationship to be tested, the parties in question will submit samples of their DNA collected using buccal (cheek) swabs. For example, if you need a paternity test, you need to collect samples from the child, the alleged father, and the mother (if she is available and willing to participate). Once collected, the samples will be submitted to the DNA testing laboratory for detailed analysis. The laboratory will then compare specific locations on the DNA to determine whether or not there is a biological relationship. For more information, read All About Paternity Testing.
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