DNA - The secret of life

The discovery of the secret of life completes 50 years on February 28. History has that it was actually discovered (not its functions though) in 1869 by Johann Friedrich Miescher, he then called it molecule nuclein, but today we know it as the DNA and RNA. By the 1950s, two scientists, Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase determined that the DNA was genetic material.


But the great discovery of the secret of life had to wait another three years till 1953 for James Watson and Francis Crick to discover the three-dimensional structure of DNA: a double helix, which looks like a spiral staircase. By discovering the structure, they unveiled its power as well as its beauty.

DNA stands for 'deoxyribonucleic acid', it carries the genetic information in the cell and is capable of self-replication and synthesis of RNA; it carries all of life's hereditary information. DNA consists of two long chains of nucleotides twisted into a double helix and joined by hydrogen bonds between the complementary bases adenine (A) and thymine (T) or cytosine (C) and guanine (G). If you were to uncoil a strip of DNA, it would reach 6 feet in length!


The DNA is a self-reproducing molecule that carries the instructions for making living things from one generation to the next. DNA is packed into packets called chromosomes and tucked into the nucleus of each cell. To make a copy of itself (cloning), the DNA unzips itself lengthwise and unravels into two half-ladders, then rebuilds itself, from components stored into the cell.

The DNA might have opened up several Pandora's boxes in various fields including science, policy and religion; it cannot be denied that its discovery is literally the key to the secret of life!