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BY GEORGE: The Code Of Life

We’ve come a long way with regard to understanding the biology of the human species.  And with advances in genome research, we now have a map of the human genome, which, as it turns out, is a lot more complex and intricate than even Einstein could have imagined.  And don’t even get started about the billions of potential interactions between chromosomes, genes, DNA, RNA, etc., etc., etc.  But, let’s do a basic decode so we can all have a fundamental understanding of what we’re made of.

We start with a single cell.  Chromosomes inside each cell contain some 3 billion what are called “base pairs” that are continuously telling the body how to work.  Get a screwed up chromosome, and that can lead to disease.

Our DNA (which is Deoxyribonucleic acid…a self replicating material that is the main part of our chromosomes) is the main working parts of our genes.  Humans have about 20,000 of these, and they instruct the body to perform specific functions.

In order to “express” the DNA codes, we have transcribers.  These transcribers are called our messenger RNA (mRNA) (RNA is Ribonucleic acid).  They translate functions transcribed from our gene sequence.

Then, we have the next department in our factory.  This part of the factory is the translation (not to be confused with the “transcribers”) division.  This we call translation RNA (tRNA).  What does this office do?  This part of our body translates the mRNA into amino acids.  Amino acids are precursors to proteins so-to-speak, and are simple organic compounds.

Speaking of proteins, that’s the last part of our trail.  The amino acids “fold” into proteins.  And of course, it’s the proteins that perform endless functions in our bodies.

The next step for scientists is to sequence all those proteins.  And you thought the DNA sequencing was complex.  If we can get the protein sequence data base finished we are pursuing, we’ll really have a chunk of data to work with.  That day isn’t too far off, by the way.  It’s happening now.

By: George Elliott

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