Did know about these DNA facts?
All life on this planet comes from DNA, the molecule within all living cells that determines the characteristics of the life the cells create. The sequencing of the four individual nitrogenous bases within the double helix strand determines the exact characteristics of the living thing. For instance, specific DNA sequencing determines whether or not a human being has blue eyes instead of brown eyes, or whether a person is brunette rather than blond.
But not only does DNA determine specific characteristics, it also determines whether or not humans are at risk for certain health problems and can be used to solve crimes by linking DNA left behind at a crime scene to specific individuals. It truly is a fascinating thing, but it is still a science in progress. There are quite a few strange facts about DNA that the average human being may not be aware of. Here are some of them that may either surprise you or shock you.
Weird Fact #1
In October of 2008, a Russian spacecraft delivered an immortality drive containing the DNA of several renowned individuals to the International Space Station, where it is being kept in case of a disaster so big it destroys mankind on Earth. Although the importance of the people whose DNA was selected to rebuild mankind may be contentious at best, they include the likes of the now disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, comedian Stephen Colbert, physicist Stephen Hawking,and game designer Richard Garriot.
Weird Fact #2
In 2007, DNA analysis mistakes led both police and the public to believe a phantom serial killer in Europe actually existed. It was believed that this serial killer’s first crime was the murder of a policewoman in Germany. After a DNA investigation, it was assumed the Phantom of Heilbronn’s crimes went back as far as 1993. These crimes include murders, thefts, and general brutality and occurred in France and Austria as well as Germany.
The kicker is that the police never could seem to nail down this phantom. There was never any video footage of the crimes and there seemed to be no method to the madness, no pattern to decipher. The only thing known for sure was that this serial killer was a female. It was as if this killer really was a phantom. That is, until male fingerprints were discovered reading positive for the female DNA.
It turns out the cotton swabs used to collect the crime scene DNA were contaminated with someone else’s DNA, which probably occurred during factory packaging of the swabs. These swabs had been sterilized for bacterial and viral growth but did not remove any DNA left behind by those that previously handled the swabs. As a result, many criminals likely got away with their crimes while the police chased a ghost that never existed in the first place. Btu the implications of this debacle are tremendous.
Weird Fact #3
Evidence seems to indicate that Vikings may have been in America long before Columbus discovered its existence. Despite their barbaric reputation, they had abundant travel experience, and research shows that there is a DNA link between Vikings and Native Americans by way of a variant found only in Native Americans and East Asian bloodlines. Vikings report interaction with people they called Skraelings, which are believed to be Native Americans. Apparently, they bred with at least one of these Skraeling women, because DNA evidence of their interaction dates back to 1700, possibly hundreds of years before that.
Weird Fact #4
It is possible for a person to have two sets of DNA within their body. This happens in early pregnancy if a woman starts out carrying twins. One twin absorbs another twin before a woman is ever aware she is pregnant. It is believed that this condition, called Chimerism, may be much more common than first thought. Most people with Chimerism live their entire lives without being aware they have it, because it is most often found only if a person needs to be matched for an organ donation.
Weird Fact #5
Anyone born after 1955 has radioactive carbon contained in their DNA. This is because the cold war of the 1950s prompted the United States and the USSR to explode nuclear warheads in their wasteland areas in order to prove their power. So much radioactive material was released into the air, that all humans born after 1955 now have trace amounts of carbon-14 within their DNA. Rest at ease, though, as it does not appear to have any noticeable affect on the body.
If you think these strange facts are interesting, there may be hundreds of other random facts to explore. The science behind it is still in its infancy, leaving a lot to be learned from past mistakes and past discoveries. There is still a lot be learned about our human history through DNA, too. Keep a look out for more interesting tidbits whenever you read an article or a discussion about DNA. You might be wowed with even more strangeness.