Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell, was an amazing achievement when she was born 20 years ago this week. Genetics is a fascinating subject and something we still have a lot to learn about and discover. Here are 10 amazing things about genetics you might not know…
1. If our human genome was published as a book, it would take up over 1.5 million pages.
2. Humans have 25,000 fewer genes than rice or wheat. More genes doesn’t necessarily mean more complicated.
3. 98% of our DNA isn’t comprised of genes, but regions that either have no known function or may regulate gene expression.
4. Inactive fragments of DNA from ancient viruses that became embedded in our DNA vastly outnumber our genes.
5. Bacteria can swap pieces of genetic material with each other, allowing them to exchange genes for resistance to our antibiotics quickly.
6. The mitochondria in our cells have their own genomes and are only passed down through the female line. We can trace this lineage back to the common female ancestor of all humans, “Mitochondrial Eve”.
7. In humans having an X and a Y chromosome makes you develop as a male, and a pair of XX chromosomes as a female, but in birds, reptiles, and some insects, the reverse is true and the female is the one with non-matching sex chromosomes.
8. Events like famines that cause a person to experience extreme conditions can cause changes in how their bodies express their genes that can be passed on to their children, and even to their grandchildren, without changing the genes themselves. This is known as epigenetics.
9. We still have not been able to recreate the development of the first self replicating molecules like DNA in the lab, so how life got started in the first place is still a bit of a mystery, but we do have theories that explain how these molecules could have arisen in the conditions of the early earth.
10. In the future we may be able to make permanent genetic modifications to human embryos that will go on to grow up into genetically modified humans, but ethical implications have lead to this kind of research being banned in most countries.
Is there something else about genetics that you find fascinating? Let us know!