One of the greatest sciences of the last couple of hundred years has been genetics, a subcategory in the realm of biology. Genetics play an important role in DNA, heritability, and the overall health of our lives. The science of genes isn’t settled because studies, experiments, and further learnings are part and parcel of genetics.
Do you think you know everything about genetics? Well, think again, because there’s a lot more to learn. The fun facts about genetics don’t stop in elementary science class or high school biology.
Here are 10 interesting facts about genetics you should know:
1. 99.9% of our DNA is identical vs. 0.1% that makes us different.
We are a lot alike, but we’re also quite different.
The average human shares about 99.9 percent of the same genetic material. However, it is the remaining 0.1 percent of the material that makes us all different. And this is a real statistical calculation, not those made up ones that always say they are “99.9 percent certain.”
2. Mice and chimpanzees share 98% DNA with humans.
Of mice and men. Of mice and chimpanzees.
It is common knowledge that we share about 98 percent of our genetic material with chimpanzees. But did you also know that humans share approximately 90 percent of genetic material with mice? This is partly why a lot of scientists and researchers perform experiments on mice.
3. There are viruses in your ancestors’ DNA.
Here is something that will blow your mind and want to tell everyone at the next cocktail party you attend: eight percent of your DNA originated from viruses that invaded your ancestors’ genomes – and never vacated. Otherwise known as retroviruses, some viruses replicate themselves by inserting their DNA into their hosts and are followed by copies, resulting in the spread of viruses.
Ultimately, every virus will merge with a cell that forms an egg or sperm, causing these viruses to be found in offspring.
4. Your DNA belongs to three parents.
You certainly didn’t add this to your story about the birds and the bees with your children. Surprisingly, a baby can have three parents. How?
As we all know, a child inherits half of its genome from his or her mother and another half from their father. The mitochondria derive from the mother’s egg, but if a mutation takes place in the process, then the offspring’s mitochondria will be fatally mutated. To prevent this from occurring, physicians use a specific type of treatment: a sperm fertilizes the mother’s egg, the nucleus formed would be removed from the embryonic cell and added in an egg without the nucleus.
In the end, a cell would have the DNA of three different ancestors: the mother, the father, and the mitochondria of a third person.
5. Blue eyes were caused by a genetic mutation.
Humans were not supposed to have blue eyes. However, sometime between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, a single common ancestor suffered a genetic mutation that gave them a blue eye colour.
The next time you see someone else with blue eyes, you can give that person a hug and call them family!
6. Your genetics cause you to dislike the taste of vegetables.
Do you remember your mother telling you to finish all your vegetables but found it an impossible chore because of the terrible taste? Well, you can blame genetics.
Many of us detest the taste of broccoli, cabbage, and other plants in the Brassica genus because these vegetables contain chemicals comparable to phenylthiocarbamide (PTC). What is this? It’s a chemical that does not contain a taste or is very bitter because of the person’s genetic makeup.
7. Blonde hair is not an exclusive gene to WASPs.
We equate blonde hair with WASPs (White Anglosaxon Persons), but blonde hair has been found in Melanesians of the South Pacific. These people evolved a different gene for blonde hair.
8. The human body cannot live beyond 120 years due to genetic coding.
Do you want to live forever? Take that up with your genetics.
In theory, the human body cannot live past 120 years because of genetic coding. Your genes are limited in the amount of times their cells can divide. While more people are living past 100 years, it is rare to come across anyone who lived beyond 120 – the longest human lifespan was 122 years and 164 days (Jeanne Calment).
9. 1 in 3 patients in pediatric hospitals are children with genetic conditions.
Did you know that one-third of all pediatric hospital admissions are for kids with genetic conditions?
10. Gene therapy can cure diseases by swapping bad DNA with good DNA.
One day, in the distant future, doctors will cure many diseases by swapping bad DNA with good DNA. This process is done through genetic therapy – it sounds like science-fiction, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility; it’s already in the beginning stages today.
If you are fascinated by the past, then you are likely as intrigued about genetics. Why? Because your genes have information that define what traits you will inherit from your parents, which were inherited from their parents – and so on. Everything from your height to your eye colour, you can thank genetics for this knowledge.