Tag Archives: DNA length

Dark DNA May Reveal New Lifeforms

18 Jul dark dna is not junk dna

You probably didn’t know that Viruses make up most of the DNA on our planet.

There are more viruses on earth than there are stars in the universe.  That’s a really, really, REALLY big number.

more virus dna than human dna

Viruses inject their DNA into their hosts, thus preserving their DNA and allowing it to replicate.  It is estimated that 100,000 genes in our genome are from viruses.  That’s about 8% of our genome.

Yes, you are in some sense a giant walking virus… (Humanity has been compared to a cancer on the earth, so a virus may actually be an improvement) – but that’s not all.

virsues are smaller than bacteria

In his talk at TED2012, researcher and jungle genome operative Nathan Wolfe makes the point that until 1898, when Dutch microbiologist  Martinus Beijerinck published a paper showing that something smaller than bacteria were causing diseases, something he called a virus, we had no idea that an entirely undiscovered form of life existed everywhere on our planet.

If we didn’t know about the most prevalent lifeform on our planet until 100 years ago, is there something else out there that we might not know about yet?  Could science have overlooked something even BIGGER?

Dark DNA may offer some clues in this Ted Talk by the radical epidemiologist Nathan Wolfe.

What is Dark DNA?

Dark DNA is the genetic code in the human genome that currently has no known original source.

We have traced 8% of the human genome to viruses.  1-2% of our genome comes from other animals.  Believe it or not you share 55% of your genetic code with a banana – and that’s not just men.

However,  20% of our genome is completely unaccounted for.  We have no idea where it came from.

Wolfe said, “As we started to look at this information, we would see that about 20 percent of the genetic information in your nose doesn’t match anything that we’ve ever seen before — no plant, animal, fungus, virus or bacteria. Basically we have no clue what this is.”

“If you think 20 percent of genetic information in your nose is a lot of biological dark matter, if we looked at your gut, up to 40 or 50 percent of that information is biological dark matter. And even in the relatively sterile blood, around one to two percent of this information is dark matter — can’t be classified, can’t be typed or matched with anything we’ve seen before.

“At first we thought that perhaps this was artifact. These deep sequencing tools are relatively new. But as they become more and more accurate, we’ve determined that this information is a form of life, or at least some of it is a form of life. And while the hypotheses for explaining the existence of biological dark matter are really only in their infancy, there’s a very, very exciting possibility that exists: that buried in this life, in this genetic information, are signatures of as of yet unidentified life.”

Some scientists have begun looking for patterns and structures in this “dark DNA” and have already made surprising discoveries, including sequencing unknown mircrobes that produce protein in new ways.

But will the BIG discovery happen?  Will this dark DNA hold the secret to a form of life that we have never known before?

alien skull

Will Dark DNA reveal a lifeform that is all around us, influencing our every day lives in unknown ways, yet has been missed by science?

Or will dark DNA confirm the suspicions of many pseudo-scientific X-Files fans (and maybe a few Scientologists) who believe that aliens started life on our planet by injecting their DNA into earth forms.  I vote for that one.




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5 Amazing Facts About Your Genes and DNA

14 Jul

1. You are a Mutant!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle DNA

The average person is born with 60 mutations in their DNA from their parents.  These kinds of mutations in DNA are thought to be largely responsible for the evolution of all species on Earth over millions of years.

As you age, environmental factors like UV rays from sunlight, radiation from x-rays and other medical procedures, and probably talking too much on your cell phone, cause additional mutations in the DNA, furthering your chances of one day becoming one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


2. You can be your own Twin.

Chimerism you can be your own twin

There is a way for you to have 2 different sets of DNA in your body.  It is called Chimerism.  When a pregnancy starts out as a set of twins, one of the twins is often absorbed into the cells of the other, and only one child is born. Sometimes the absorbed twin’s cells with slightly different DNA keep dividing, and they remain in your system.

In 2002, a woman named Lydia Fairchild took a DNA test as part of an application process for a welfare program, but when the results came back it showed that she was not the mother of her children!

The court wanted to prosecute her for fraud even though hospital records showed that she gave birth to the children.  She was eventually able to prove that she was affected by chimerism and had two sets of DNA in her body.  She was actually her own twin.

(PUBLIC ADVISORY: If you begin to grow a second head, please call a real doctor for actual medical advice!)


3. DNA is right handed.

DNA is right handed

The ladder-like structure of DNA usually twists to the right.  This twist makes DNA’s shape asymmetrical.  If you try to superimpose the mirror image of DNA onto itself, it will not fit. Just like your right and left hand.

There are forms of DNA that have been discovered to have other shapes, for example there occasionally arises a left-handed form of DNA that scientists have called “Z-DNA”.  (Fortunately, Z does not mean zombie, however it is only a matter of time until a comic book writer uses it that way.)  It seems to occur briefly during biological activities such as DNA transcription.

Most scientists believe that DNA randomly arose as a right handed structure, and all DNA that has evolved since has had to follow that structure. DNA’s right-handedness may also be due to the Earth’s natural rotation, early human tire swing experimentation, or because our DNA is just too lazy to be ambidextrous.


4. Your DNA can reach to the stars.

Your DNA Can Reach to the Sun and back

If you unraveled the DNA in a single cell in your body it would be about 6 feet long.  You have around 50-100 TRILLION cells in your body.

If you put all the DNA molecules from every cell in your body together they would reach to the sun and back numerous times.  (some calculate as many as 600 times to the sun and back!)


5. There is MORE bacterial DNA in your body than your own DNA.

human body has more bacteria dna

Believe it or not, there are about 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than your own cells.  That’s like 500-1000 Trillion bacteria cells floating around your body. That means there’s more DNA from bacteria inside you than human DNA.

Bacteria are super, super small, about 10 to 20 times smaller than a human cell, so you don’t really notice them.   1-3% of your body weight is actually bacteria, which will soon lead to an anti-bacterial weight-loss challenge.  (You heard it here first!)

Don’t freak out though – a lot of that bacteria is helpful and necessary for many bodily functions.  As for the rest of it… remember to wash you hands before you eat.



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