Ask the Scientist: Brooke’s Question

(L-R) Morgan, Lara and Brooke

(L-R) Morgan, Lara and Brooke, holding the helical DNA model we are all so familiar with

Our ‘Ask The Scientist’ series continues with another question from the students of Irchester Community Primary School, Northants.

Last week we tackled an excellent question from Morgan on why we all have different DNA.

This week our question comes from Brooke, and it’s another cracker!

Why is DNA in a double helix?

– Brooke, aged 10

The DNA double helix - but why?

The DNA double helix – but why?

Has it ever occurred to you why DNA is in a double helix? Nope? Me neither. It is one of those things we have always taken for granted, we don’t question it, it just IS. Which is why it sometimes takes a young and questioning mind to bring such an oversight to our attention. So we put our heads together here at PlayDNA and had a good think.

We decided there are a couple of different ways we could approach Brooke’s question.

We could look at it from a chemistry perspective and ask how, chemically, the helix is formed and what chemical or physical forces cause it to take this shape.

Or, we could look at it from a biological perspective and ask why, evolutionarily, it was this particular structure that we ended up with.

We’ll take a look at each in turn, but before we get stuck in, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves what DNA actually is.

What is DNA?

DNA is organised as two long strands of bases which twist around one another to form a double helix. DNA bases pair up with each other, A always with T and C always with G, to form units called base pairs. This is all held together by a sugar-phosphate backbone. The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sides.

DNA is organised as two long strands of bases which twist around one another to form a double helix. DNA bases pair up with each other, A always with T and C always with G, to form units called base pairs. This is all held together by a sugar-phosphate backbone.

DNA, which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, is the complex chemical that carries our genetic information. It is a bit like an instruction manual for building the body and keeping it healthy. We keep an entire copy of our DNA code (called our genome) in almost every cell in our body (wow!).

The information, or blueprint, for building a human being like you or me is stored in our DNA as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). These bases are joined together to form long strands, which wrap around one another to form the helix shape we are so familiar with (a bit like a twisted ladder). The human genome consists of around 3 billion pairs of these bases!

Essentially, it is the order in which these bases are organised in our DNA that tells our cells what to do.

The chemistry of the DNA double helix

The basic chemical principle behind why DNA forms a double helix is actually relatively straightforward. As we can see from the diagram above, DNA is essentially made up of three parts: sugar, phosphate and bases. It is the way in which these different molecules react to water that is key to the helical shape.

tea and sugarLet’s look at our sugar molecule first. We all know that to sweeten our tea or our fizzy pop, sugar has to dissolve in water. When something is able to dissolve in water, it is called ‘water-soluble’ or ‘hydrophilic’.

Next comes the phosphate. You might not have heard of phosphates before, but they are really very important!

Phosphate is a major nutrient required for plant growth and is a common addition to plant fertilisers (have a look at the bags of compost next time you’re at the garden centre). See what a difference it can make to how well these plants grow!

Phosphate is a major nutrient required for plant growth and is a common addition to plant fertilisers (have a look at the bags of compost next time you’re at the garden centre). See what a difference it can make to how well these plants grow!

Phosphates are involved in virtually every cellular reaction in our bodies and are key building blocks for many cellular compounds (including DNA of course!) They are absolutely essential to human, plant and animal life.

Just like the sugar, phosphates are able to easily dissolve in water too.

Finally lets consider the bases. You might have guessed by now, the bases are the opposite of the sugar and the phosphate – they hate water! They are ‘hydrophobic’ and do not dissolve in water.

Bases hate water too!

Bases hate water too!

So what happens to the bases when you put them in water? Something very similar to what happens when you mix oil and water – they pool together and don’t blend with the water at all. But most of the space in our cells is filled with water, so how do these ‘hydrophobic’ bases exist in our cells?

Well, once they are attached to a sugar and a phosphate (to form what is known as a nucleotide) they arrange themselves in such a way as to be as far away from the water as possible. Where is this? Why in the centre of the molecule of course! The water-hating bases stack themselves in the middle of the molecule while the water-loving sugar and phosphate backbone sits on the outside.

But there is another problem.

The DNA strands arrange themselves so the water-hating bases are tucked away safely in the centre of the molecule and as far away from surrounding water as possible!

The DNA strands arrange themselves so the water-hating bases are tucked away safely in the centre of the molecule and as far away from the surrounding water as possible!

If the bases just stack themselves (like a ladder) this still leaves space around the bases through which water can sneak in – and the bases don’t like that! They naturally form a position that keeps them all as far from the water as possible, just like the way oil will clump together on top of water. The most efficient position the molecule can form to do this is – you guessed it – a helix, as the ‘twist’ in the molecule closes up and minimises those gaps through the middle.

So that is why, chemically, DNA forms a double helix. It’s all simply down to the way the molecule interacts with water.

But there is another, less direct way to look at this question. A biologist (and we are all biologists here at PlayDNA!) would perhaps ask why it is this particular structure that has endured over any other type of molecule. Why has life evolved to use bases arranged in a double strand to carry our genetic code and not some other formation? Why a combination of water soluble and insoluble chemicals?

In short, why is the DNA double helix so perfect for carrying our genetic information?

The biology of the DNA double helix

As we’ve seen above, when we refer to DNA as being ‘double-stranded’, we mean that it consists of two strands of DNA bound together. However these strands are not permanently bound to one another. They can be separated for a couple of reasons:

  • So that the cell can ‘read’ the instructions contained within the DNA and tell it what to do.
  • So that the strands can be used as a template to make a whole new copy of the DNA code for a new cell – a process called ‘DNA replication.

Unbelievably, each and every one of us developed from just a single cell.

we all start out life as just a single cell complete with the original DNA copy we got from our mum and dad! As we develop, our cells duplicate, and each new cell needs its own copy of your DNA code to tell it what to do. That is a LOT of copying!

We all start out life as just a single cell complete with the original DNA copy we got from our mum & dad! As we develop, our cells duplicate, and each new cell needs its own copy of DNA to tell it what to do. That’s a LOT of copying!

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To make new copies of your DNA code, the DNA-helix is first "unzipped". Each half will then be the template for a new, complementary strand. Biological machines inside the cell put the corresponding bases onto the split molecule and also "proof-read" the result to find and correct any mistakes. The final result is two exact copies of the original DNA molecule!

To make new copies of your DNA code, the DNA-helix is first “unzipped”. Each half will then be the template for a new, complementary strand. Biological machines inside the cell put the new bases onto the split molecule and also “proof-read” the result to correct any mistakes. The final result is two exact copies of the original DNA molecule!

From that single cell, an individual grows to around 100 trillion cells (!), and almost every one of these cells contains an entire copy our DNA (remember there are over 3 billion bases in just one copy).

That is a lot of DNA for our bodies to read and copy! It is really important then that we keep any errors in this copying to a minimum, as at this rate errors can build up quickly, and errors in our DNA code – or mutations as they are also known – are usually a bad thing.

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In this regard, being double-stranded helps in at least two ways.

Oops, this A base appears to have been accidentally put in the new strand of DNA instead of a C base! The double stranded nature of DNA keeps these errors at very low levels, but they do still happen in our DNA all the time! Luckily most of these mutations are harmless, as they don’t occur in the important areas of our DNA.

Oops, an A base has been accidentally put in the new strand of DNA instead of a C base! The double stranded nature of DNA keeps these errors at very low levels, but they do still happen in our DNA all the time. Luckily most of these mutations are harmless, as they don’t occur in the important areas of our DNA.

Firstly, as we know, it is the chemical bases A, T, C and G that carry the DNA code. If the DNA molecule were single stranded, this important part of the molecule would be exposed to the cellular environment, which would mean a higher likelihood that it could get mutated by the numerous chemicals there. In our double stranded model however, the precious bases are kept locked away within the complex, keeping them safe from the harsh external environment.

Secondly, as we saw earlier, the two DNA strands that form the helix are essentially complementary copies of one another. An A base on one strand always pairs with a T base on the other, and likewise C always pairs with G. Having two complementary strands facing each other means that our cells always have a back up; a way to check that our DNA has been copied correctly. It allows for a level of ‘proof- reading’ of the DNA sequence so some mutations can be corrected, or at least limited.

In summary, the double-stranded DNA helix is a winning combination for packaging genetic material for the long term. It keeps our DNA code as faithful to the original as possible with its ability to be copied precisely and without errors, and offers some protection against mutation.

It is perhaps no surprise then that almost all organisms – plants, animals, yeast and bacteria – carry their genetic information encapsulated as DNA: it is the perfect molecule for the job!

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If you have anything to add, or any more questions on this topic, please do feel free to comment below!

With thanks to Dr. Rama Balakrishnan, Stanford University (http://genetics.thetech.org/ask/ask109) and Jeremy http://medicguide.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/why-is-dna-double-stranded-but-rna.html)

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Ask the Scientist: Morgan’s Question

I have always found that young people ask the most insightful of questions. They can come up with questions we would never had thought to ask, and yet, once posed, make us sit up and think “actually, yeah, why is that?”

(L-R) Morgan, Lara and Brooke

(L-R) Morgan, Lara and Brooke

Following my recent interview with the Lab_13 children of Irchester Community Primary School I was lucky enough to receive three such questions from three very bright and talented young ladies. Together with my colleagues Dr James Sleigh and Dr Stuart Grice, we have prepared responses to each of their questions in turn.

To make them a little easier to digest, I will post one a week. Our first question comes from Morgan, age 11. We hope you enjoy reading them, and feel free to add your own thoughts below!  

I know we all have different DNA but why? Why do we need to be different?

– Morgan, aged 11

Everybody does indeed have different DNA, and that is one of the things that makes you unique and who you are. However, the sequence of your DNA is almost 99.9% similar to that of another person. That means that if you were to look at the letters that make up your DNA and my DNA, 999 out of 1000 are likely to be the same. This percentage gets even higher when you compare your DNA with a relative.

If you go in the opposite direction and compare yourself with a chimpanzee, the differences become bigger and that similarity percentage goes down. I’m sure you’ve all heard of people tracing their family histories and drawing a family tree.tree of life zazzle 2 Well imagine doing that and going back a few million years. Eventually, you would come across an ancestor that you share with a chimp!

Now keep on going. If you were to go back billions of years until your tree includes every animal that ever lived, you would have drawn the “Tree of Life” and you would be able to see how life on earth has evolved, and how new species came to exist.

And this is why we all have different DNA and need to be different. For a species to be able to survive and thrive, it needs to be well adapted to its environment. Think of an African elephant with its large ears to improve heat loss and a polar bear with its extremely thick fur to keep it warm. Each species has many ‘adaptations’ in order to survive. If you were to swap the two and put an elephant in the Arctic or a polar bear in Africa, neither would live for very long!

Perfectly adapted to their environment

Perfectly adapted to their environment, but not so good in each others!

These adaptations have come about because of evolution by natural selection acting on their DNA.

playdna dna genes chromosomesIt is actually the genes in DNA that result in the different characteristics we see in all species. A gene is simply a short section of DNA that tells our cells what to do. If you think of your DNA as a recipe book, the genes are the individual recipes. Each of us has the same set of genes – about 20,000 in all. The differences between people come from slight variations in these genes.

Differences in our genes, which can come about through natural mutations in our DNA, lead to new characteristics. A lot of these changes may be bad, but some may be good, and improve the chances of an animal surviving. Those animals with genes that improve their chances of survival will be more likely to live long enough to pass on their DNA to their children than those animals that don’t possess the advantageous genes.

In recent years our environment is improving again, and with lower levels of pollution we are starting to see an upturn in lighter-coloured moth numbers- what colour are the moths near you?

In recent years our environment is improving again, and with lower levels of pollution we are starting to see an upturn in lighter-coloured moth numbers
– what colour are the moths near you?

When this selection of genes occurs over long periods of time, animals within a species can become more different from each other until two groups form that can no longer have children together. When this happens, new species have formed.

The differences in human DNA allowed our species to adapt to the environment over generations. If we go back a few thousand years, when there were no computers, or telephones, and we were living in small huts and caves, life was much harder and there was much more danger in the world. If we all had the exact same DNA, we would all be very similar in our appearance and our physical and mental abilities. That means that we would have been much more likely to die out as a species if a life-threatening change in our environment occurred, perhaps a new disease that no one was immune to for example.

Monocultures are genetically identical plant species: what do you think will happen to this crop if it was attacked by disease?

Monocultures are plantations of genetically identical plant species: what do you think will happen to this crop if it was attacked by disease?

However, having small differences in our DNA means there is a chance that some people could be immune to that disease. If attacked by a large predator like a lion, it would be those who could run faster that would survive, or maybe those who were smarter and able to hide better. These individuals would be more likely to stay alive long enough to pass on their advantageous genes.

Being different then is a good thing, not only because it means that life is a little more exciting with the diverse range of people you get to meet, but also because we are more likely to survive into the future as a species!

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A Different Kind of Artwork

PlayDNA Lab TimesPlayDNA is in the news again – this time in the scientific press.

“Combining art and science in England’s historic heart, a few mavericks produce individual pieces of art from their customers’ DNA.

So is it art, science, or education?” In the case of PlayDNA…..it is a bit of each”.

We’re not sure we’d personally describe ourselves as ‘mavericks’ exactly (!) although we do like to think we’re making science more accessible, fun and cool!

You can read the full article here: Lab Times article

Lab Times has already established itself as one of the most popular Life Science journals in Europe and is recognised as a grassroots magazine produced by scientists for scientists.

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Curious young minds

Earlier this month I was contacted by Scientist in Residence Jennifer Hogan on twitter. Jennifer, as I found out, runs a very special science lab for primary children in Northants called Lab_13.

Lab_13 is a space dedicated entirely to investigation, innovation and creativity; a space managed by young people; a space led by young people.
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Lab_13 Irchester
What a fabulous concept I thought!

Jennifer invited me to be interviewed by some of the children on the Lab_13 committee about my career path. They were particularly interested in how I had combined my dual loves of science and art.

Of course I agreed, as there is nothing more satisfying than being able to help enthuse and encourage young people to get involved in science!

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Letter from George and the Lab_13 committee

Letter from George and the Lab_13 committee

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You can find my full interview with the Lab_13 children of Irchester Community Primary School at their blog here:
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Thanks Jennifer, George and everyone at Lab_13, it was an honour to be asked and an absolute pleasure to get involved!
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PlayDNA gets thumbs up from Debenhams crowd!

Debenhams wedding fairAfter an overwhelmingly positive response to our first wedding fair at the 5* Randolph Hotel, Oxford, in January we were delighted to be invited to exhibit our new range of Framed Prints at the Debenhams Oxford department store last weekend.

Following hot on the heels of Valentines Day, the traditional British retailer held a Wedding Fair on Saturday 16th February 2013 to celebrate love, commitment – and how to have a fabulous wedding!

Dr Sam talks through our new product range

Dr Sam talks through our new product range with some keen shoppers

Dr Sam explains the interpretable nature of a PlayDNA portrait

Dr Sam explains the interpretable nature of a PlayDNA portrait – and why they make such great wedding gifts!

As well as the many excited brides and grooms, a busy Saturday crowd kept PlayDNA Founders Dr Samantha Decombel and Dr Stuart Grice chatting about their novel artwork all afternoon. More than one person were stopped in their tracks by the colourful display pieces and paused to admire the ‘extremely cool’ and ‘fascinating’ artworks as they browsed the aisles.

As a wedding gift never to be forgotten you certainly couldn’t do better than a PlayDNA portrait – a fun way to see how compatible the bride and groom might be!

Do opposites attract? Or are you the perfect match? Beautiful genetic portraits for couples and families that come complete with your own DNA analysis and guide.

Available now, just contact sam@playdna.co.uk for more information or take a look at our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/playdna.

Own a wedding portrait as unique as you

 

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A genome’s junk is a gene’s treasure

Research Profile Picture James Sleigh

By James Sleigh

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2012 was an eventful year.

We saw Queen Elizabeth II mark 60 years on the British throne, Team GB excel at the fantastic London Olympic and Paralympic Games, the re-election of US and Russian presidents, and Gangnam Style conquer the world, all while managing to survive the Mayan apocalypse.

The year will also be remembered for a number of considerable scientific achievements. But which is the most important?

The landing of the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars? The discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN? Or perhaps even Herr Baumgartner’s record-breaking skydive from 24 miles above the New Mexico desert?

Deciding is almost as tricky as picking last year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year!

As the newest member of the PlayDNA team, I’ve decided to begin the year by highlighting the research from 2012 that I think has the greatest impact on our understanding of what makes us human.

The Human Dictionary

Spot the difference?

Spot the difference

You may think you’re quite different from a grasshopper, the mould growing on your week-old loaf, or your Mum’s cheese plant. And you would be quite right. But, despite the instructions to create each species being different, the pen with which they are written is the same.

That is, we all share a universal genetic code – the DNA (the instructions) of all organisms is made from long strings of consecutive molecules known as nucleotides, which come in one of four different flavours (A, C, T, or G). The order in which these nucleotides are arranged within DNA affects how the inherent information is read, and what creature is eventually produced.

This happens because relatively short, distinct stretches of DNA known as genes, are copied to produce intermediary molecules that are then used as a templates to create proteins, the fundamental components of all cells.

Original cartoon by Daniel Paz

Original cartoon by Daniel Paz

Thanks to the Human Genome Project (HGP), the entire instruction manual to build a human was mapped and published in 2003. This landmark scientific collaboration unravelled the sequence of all the letters in our DNA, and identified that each of us possesses a unique complement of about 3 billion nucleotides, including some 20,000 or so genes.

Incredible!

However, the term “genome” is perhaps somewhat of a misnomer, as unexpectedly genes were shown to account for only approximately 1% of the total DNA. The remaining 99% has since often been described as “junk” because it had not been linked to any particular function.

That is, until now.

The Human Encyclopaedia

ENCODE nature cover 1Picking up where the HGP left off, the Encyclopaedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project is a decade-long study, involving over 440 scientists in 32 laboratories, and costing in excess of £180 million. The primary results from this large international collaboration were published late last year across 30 scientific papers, and have earned the ENCODE project my pick for the breakthrough of 2012.

The main aim of the ENCODE project is to build upon the human lexicon described by the HGP, by improving our knowledge of the grammar that weaves the directory of words into meaningful sentences. That is, the ENCODE project is attempting to better our understanding of how our genome of 3 billion nucleotides fits together, how the genes are controlled, and what all that “junk” is actually for.

dnaUsing nearly 150 different cell types, the scientists studied on a very large scale many different properties of human DNA sequences. They looked at which regions were active, which were silent, and what sequences appeared to be important for driving the production of proteins.

Each type of cell uses different combinations and permutations of these DNA sequences to produce its own unique biology. By comparing these differences, we are able to better understand how the genome is put together, processed, and read.

The upshot from what is the most detailed analysis of the human genome to date is that approximately 80% of our DNA has now been assigned a biochemical function.

junk dna

Image credit: nytimes.com

It’s not junk!

Why should I care about that?!

Well, understanding what all the regions of the human genome are doing can help scientists to pinpoint certain genetic risk factors that predispose to different conditions. In the past, many studies looking at patient DNA sequences have found hotspots that appear to contribute in some way to particular diseases. Intriguingly, many of these regions were not found in genes but in the “junk,” making it hard to deduce how and why these seemingly unimportant parts of the genome were being correlated with certain diseases.

In light of the ENCODE results, it is highly likely that these regions are functionally impacting genes that at first glance did not appear to be involved in disease.

Just what the doctor ordered?

Just what the doctor ordered?

We are a long way from understanding the wealth of data that ENCODE has produced. And it’s not going to get any easier, as it is estimated that the project is only about 10% complete.

Nevertheless, by highlighting the importance of our genome’s “junk” for the function of our genes, this breakthrough project will undoubtedly lead to a deeper knowledge of diseases and how to treat them.

 
Dr James Sleigh is a published research scientist at the University of Oxford currently working on diseases that affect the nervous system. His interest in genetics and neuroscience was sparked while working in a lab at Harvard Medical School as an undergraduate, and he has never looked back! James is passionate about communicating science, and has even won awards for his science writing. He is the research correspondent for the SMA charity The Jennifer Trust and has recently joined PlayDNA as Chief Communications Officer – so no doubt you will be hearing plenty more from him!
 

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The cool new way to show off your DNA

DNA Art Portrait Rug Home PlayDNA

The perfect finishing touch to your family home, a personalised PlayDNA rug!

This might just be one time you’ll be happy to be walked all over! The latest edition to our DNA PORTRAIT product portfolio is probably our favourite so far: the personalised DNA rug.

We’ve teamed up with bespoke rug manufacturer and official producer of the Stamp Rug – Rug-Maker.com – to bring this fabulous new product to you.

Interiors UK design rug dna collaboration playdna art

PlayDNA Founder Dr Samantha Decombel and Rug-Maker.com’s Julian Blair discuss the potential of a collaboration to create a new and unique personalised interior option.

Following a chance meeting with Sales Director Julian Blair at the 2013 Interiors UK exhibition, Dr Samantha Decombel immediately saw the potential for a collaboration between PlayDNA and Rug-Maker.com, renowned for bespoke handmade rugs perfected through technology. By combining our high-tech science with their high-tech design, we have created a totally unique and stylish concept in soft furnishings and interior design!

After preparing your personal DNA art with the PlayDNA difference, Dr Decombel and our talented graphic designer Callie Bowyer work alongside Julian to create the perfect design for your home.

DNA Rug playdna art portrait of family

This DNA rug showcases a family of four with every band representing a different trait, such as the gene for eye colour, or whether they are early birds or night owls. Can you spot the family resemblance? We can create a combined DNA portrait for any number of family members!

As you would expect from one of the leading custom rug manufacturers in the world, quality is at the heart of this product, with each beautiful rug hand-crafted from 100% New Zealand wool and silk in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal.

With prices starting from just £599 (1m x 1.25m) and over 350 colours to choose from, you’re certain to find the perfect rug to add the finishing touch to your family home.

www.playDNA.co.uk

www.rug-maker.com

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How genetics is helping the snow leopard

Brrr! The snow is still falling here in Oxfordshire and has all but the bravest of us confined to our homes.

Unusually among cats, their eyes are pale blue/green or grey in colour.

One animal that doesn’t mind the cold however is the majestic snow leopard.

Found throughout the major mountain ranges of Central Asia, including the remote Himalayas, the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is among the most elusive of all the big cats.

Unlike us, snow leopards have a number of perfect adaptations for living in a cold mountainous environment. Their bodies are short and stocky, their fur is thick, and their ears are small and rounded, all of which helps to minimise heat loss. Their paws are wide, which distributes their weight better when walking on snow, and their tails are thick due to storage of fats and are very thickly covered with fur which allows them to be used like a blanket to protect their faces when they sleep.

Curiously the snow leopard cannot roar, and instead, much like a domestic moggy, they hiss, chuffle, mew, growl and wail.

Sadly, although perhaps unsurprisingly, the snow leopard is listed as an endangered species by the IUCN, the largest global conservation network. Just 3,000 to 7,500 individuals are believed to exist, although given its secretive nature it has been difficult for conservationists to work out exactly how many of these beautiful animals there are left in the wild.

Can you spot the elusive snow leopard? Yes, there really is one there!Image courtesy of Kim Murray, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Assistant Director of Science

Can you spot the elusive snow leopard? Yes, there really is one there! Tip: look just below the rocky outcrop on the left…
Image reproduced from: snowleopardblog.com/spot-the-snow-leopard, courtesy of Kim Murray, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Assistant Director of Science

This is where genetics has been invaluable in helping the conservationists estimate the numbers of wild snow leopard in certain areas.

Scientists in Nepal collected samples of “scat” (snow leopard poo to you and me) and, using the same genetic techniques we do in creating your PlayDNA portrait, profiled the ‘poo’ to work out how many individual snow leopards were in each area, and even what gender they are.

This is really important information to a conservationist as it allows them to see how human activity might be affecting snow leopard populations, identify areas of high conservation priority and assess the effectiveness of any potential conservation action. All with minimal interference to the snow leopard.

Let’s hope their efforts are rewarded by a resurgence in the numbers of these magnificent beasts.

– written by Dr Samantha Decombel, Founder (PlayDNA)

References:

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1756-0500/4/516

http://snowleopardblog.com

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Too many sweets? Have some halloween science fun!

So it’s Halloween, and the trick and treater’s are out in force tonight. Sweets and chocolate seem to be the favourite ‘treat’ option, but when the kids trek home with a bucket full of candy, what to do with it all?!

Well, why not try out this quick and entertaining science experiment with your kids? It’s a great excuse to combine a bit of science fun with munching your way through all those sweets!

Take it in turns to try chewing a flavoured sweet while holding your nose – can you tell what flavour it is without looking at the wrapper? Let go of your nose and – voila! The flavour becomes apparent! Why not try it with different flavours to see if you can tell the difference?

This experiment neatly (and tastily!) demonstrates that smell and taste are very closely linked. Over 90% of what we think of as ‘taste’ is actually smell.

Want a healthy option to play this game? You can also try it with different fruit, although the distinctive textures can be a give away (a tip: telling the difference between apple and potato can be tricky!). We’d love to hear what other food you found this works with too!

Did you know? Our Personal DNA Portrait will reveal whether you have the gene for ‘bitter-tasting’ and as a result can taste the bitter compounds found in many green vegetables – a genetic reason for avoiding the Brussels Sprouts this Christmas. Yes, really!

Find out more about our unique DNA Art here: http://www.playdna.co.uk/personal-dna-profile.php

Happy Hallowe’en everyone!

– Dr Sam

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PlayDNA gets a WOW for its DNA Art!

We are greatly honoured to have been chosen by the extremely glamourous and high-flying businesswoman Jacqueline Gold as one of her favourite three businesses of the week on Twitter!

Jacqueline is the Chief Executive of Ann Summers and Knickerbox and runs her Twitter #WOW competition weekly, hand-selecting the most exciting female-led businesses around. Renowned for being one of the most powerful woman in retail, we are thrilled she has recognised the potential in PlayDNA!

Jacqueline loved our concept of mixing art and science to create unique prints based on your own DNA that can be meaningfully interpreted to tell you what secrets lie in your genes. Plus, unlike some other DNA art companies our DNA Portraits are not computer-generated, they are actually digital photographs of your DNA! Find out more at www.playdna.co.uk.

Interested? You can follow us on Twitter @PlayDNA

Jacqueline Gold announces our #WOW win for DNA Art!

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