Skip to main content

A DNA primer

What's the difference between genomes and genetics? How does gene editing work? ASU's Ask a Biologist team shares the 411 on DNA


Illustration of a DNA double helix
|
April 09, 2019

At-home DNA test kits are exploding in popularity. So much so that experts expect more than 100 million people’s DNA will be part of commercial databases by the end of 2020. DNA data can reveal so much: a person’s hair color, susceptibility to disease, life expectancy, connections to ancestors and more.

To better understand DNA — and what this trove of information means for medicine, criminal justice and cybersecurity — ASU Now partnered with Ask A Biologist, one of the longest-running biology websites dedicated to teaching learners of all ages about the living world.

Video by Ask a Biologist

Glossary of terms

DNA: All of your genes are made of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA lives in the nucleus of your cells, and it is an instruction manual that tells your body how to develop and how to work.

RNA: Ribonucleic acid, or RNA, partners with DNA and works as a messenger to share DNA instructions with cells in your body.

Genetic: Having to do with how genes are passed down from parent to offspring.

Genome: A genome is all the genetic information of a living thing.

Nucleus: Where DNA stays in the cell; plural is nuclei.

Organism: A living thing that can be small like bacteria or large like an elephant.

CRISPR: Stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. CRISPR is a gene editing tool that can remove or replace sections of a DNA strand.

Cas9: An enzyme used in CRISPR gene editing. The enzyme acts like a pair of scissors, slicing DNA.

>>LEARN MORE: Go even more in-depth with the Ask A Biologist tutorial on gene editing and CRISPR.

More stories in this series

Top image: 3D rendering of a DNA double helix courtesy of Getty Images/iStockphoto

More Science and technology

 

Portrait of Chao Ma in suit smiling.

A ceramic renaissance

Rising from the smoky embrace of kilns, ceramics played a significant role during the Renaissance era, with the resurgence of sculptors who originally used the material as a form of classical…

Three women and a man stand in front of a banner that reads Indo-Pacific Space and Earth Conference

ASU-based space workforce training program expands to Australia and New Zealand

The Milo Space Science Institute, led by Arizona State University, will offer its space workforce training program to university and vocational students in Australia and New Zealand starting in March…

A group of students and Michael Crow holding up the "forks up" symbol at AAAS.

ASU students compete at world’s largest general science conference

A group of 15 Arizona State University students traveled to Denver, Colorado, last week for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest general…