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April 25th is National DNA Day, commemorating the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA’s double helix in 1953. The goal of this day is to offer students, teachers, and the public an opportunity to learn more about the latest advances in genomic research and explore how these advances may impact their lives.
Genome is the word used to refer to all of your DNA. All living organisms have their own genome, and each contains the information needed to build and maintain that organism throughout its life. To put it simply, your genome is what allowed you to develop from a single cell into the amazing person you are today! The genome has the important job of helping your organs to do their jobs, and it has the incredible ability to repair itself when it becomes damaged. And best of all, your genome is unique to you!
A gene is a segment of DNA that sends instructions to the cell to make a specific protein, which then carries out a particular function in your body. Nearly all humans have the same genes arranged in roughly the same order. So although our genome is unique to us, more than 99% of your DNA sequence is identical to any other human. However, a human gene has an average of 1-3 letters that differ from person to person. These differences are enough to make changes in proteins which impact the color of your hair, eyes, and skin and – more importantly – influence your risk of developing diseases.
There is so much to learn about our DNA, and the National Human Genome Research Institute has a variety of resources available on their website. So take a moment to learn a little more about your DNA and what makes you…YOU!