5 Things You Didn’t Know About DNA

September 3, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Blue DNA strands on a black background. Artist's impression.
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Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the molecule that stores the biological information and genetic instructions that makes each species unique. Check out some mind-bending facts about the code inside all living organisms:


1.    The length of all the DNA in your body could make hundreds of round trips to the sun.

If all of your DNA was unbound and straightened out, each cell by itself would have a 6-foot long strand. With approximately 100 trillion cells in the body, that means all the DNA molecules in your body end-to-end could make about 600 trips to the Sun and back! The Earth is approximately 92 million miles away from the Sun. That’s a lot of DNA.


2.     You share 99.9 percent of your DNA with every other human.

Scientific research has proven that even individuals from completely different geographic locations around the world share 99.9 percent of the same DNA. Despite physical differences, your genetic makeup is strikingly similar to every other human on Earth. But that tiny .1 percent is enough to identify the geographic ancestry of individual men and women. The popular argument against war and racism that we are innately all the same really isn’t that far off.


3.    8 percent of your DNA isn’t human— it’s viral DNA.

DNA is a fragile molecule and isn’t immune to error. There are many repair mechanisms, but some of the damage stays with you for life. For example, a virus can add its DNA to your own and could be inherited by your children. Over countless generations, the human race has accumulated so much viral DNA that it makes up 8 percent of all our DNA. Fortunately, most are harmless and some have even proven to be helpful.


4.    98 percent of your DNA is commonly shared with chimpanzees.

Scientists sequenced the genome of chimpanzees and found that humans are 98 percent similar to them. There were several sequences of genetic code that differ between humans and chimps, which would likely explain human-specific traits such as speech. But we really do have a lot of striking similarities with the great ape species. The number of genetic differences between humans and chimps is ten times smaller than the differences between mice and rats. Maybe Darwin was on to something…


5. There is an “Immortality Drive” aboard the International Space Station that contains the DNA of prominent people in case humanity ever needs to be resurrected.

In 2008, a Russian spacecraft flew a small memory device with digitized DNA sequences of some prominent figures like Stephen Hawking, Lance Armstrong, Stephen Colbert, and Jo Garcia. Its purpose is to provide the building blocks to resurrect humanity if an apocalyptic event were to destroy Earth.



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