Science Interviews

Interview

Tue, 5th Jan 2016

DNA decoded... with singing

Barbershop Quartet Bald Zone

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Do You Have Skinny Genes?

There's quite a few things at play when it comes to what makes you, you: there's DNAthe environment, your genes, your lifestyle even... But how much do they all interact and is there a dominant force or factor in all this? To understand, Graihagh Jackson decided to meet the barbershop quartet, Bald Zone, to better understand the peculiarities of DNA...

Graihagh - So DNA: it's a molecule - a bunch of atoms stuck together and in the case of DNA, in the form the shape of a long, spiraling ladder. That's if you stretched it out - in real life, it's actually tightly wound up and sandwiched between structuring proteins to form a chromosome.

This recipe for life is in each and every one of our cells and a gene is just a section of the recipe - an instruction like 'peel the potatoes' or 'dice the onions.'

And just like those words can be broken down into individual letters, genes too are made up of a sequence of four letters or bases, which scientists call...

Singing

And A pairs with T, and G goes with C

A different sequence of bases would make a different gene, just like how a different sequence of letters would make up a different word!

They can be really long 'words' - over a million letters long or as short as 300 letters long...

Humans have roughly 20,000 thousand genes. And these genes code for certain proteins - you may have heard of haemoglobin - this is a protein found in red blood cells and helps to transport oxygen around the body...

These proteins mix together with other chemicals in the body to build things like eye colour, or freckles or indeed whether you're a tenor...

Singing

...or base...

Singing

Graihagh - Pretty cool huh? Thank you to the barbershop quartet, Bald Zone for helping me out with this one, here on the Naked Scientists. They were singing an old Jamaican folk song The Banana Boat Song - do you know how many genes you share with a banana? Go on, have a guess. It's 50% - you share half your genes with a banana. Pretty mind blowing stuff, eh?

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