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Tuesday, February 2, 2010
What is DNA?
I won't get into the technical details but try to give a high level view of what DNA is. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) contains the genetic blueprint or instructions used in the development and function of all living organisms and even some viruses. This is where nature stores the information about the organism. This information may be color of eyes, skin, or hair or it could be whether you are susceptible to some disease or defect. Each of us gets DNA from our parents. Half from our mother and half from our father. When eggs or sperm are produced they are produced in equal quantities of one half of our DNA, When the egg and sperm are combined to produce a new organism each contributes its DNA to the DNA of the new organism. We use 16 of these DNA markers to positively identify a person, since no two people share the same combination of numbers. (The exception to this is identical twins, in which case even DNA cannot tell them apart. This is because the twins were formed when a fertilized egg splits and two identical organisms are formed.) By comparing the markers of a child and the mother and father you can see what markers come from each parent. This is the essence of the DNA paternity test. An alleged father can be excluded if he lacks the markers that match those of the child.