Living in Code

Most of us understand that our technology is not as simple as it appears to be to us. Except for real pros, most of us want a WYSIWYG - what you see is what you get - experience. When that breaks down and our apps freeze, or our data is corrupted, we are panicked and seek expert help to restore our tecnological lives. Our bodies are rather like this, too.

The spiral ladder-type image we associate with DNA looks cool and all, but few of us understand that it is truly our bodies' code and when it gets corrupted, it may have widespread effects. That "ladder" is more like a zipper and everyone knows what happens when a zipper fails to connect with the proper teeth on each side.

Our DNA also zips and unzips, recreating our genetic code as we perform our bodily processes, grow, process fuel, and just live. The image here is a picture of that code and the matching required as the two sides of that ladder or zipper come together determines much about our lives and health. Here is a simplified, but still accurate, explanation.

DNA contains the information that governs the development and functioning of all living organisms. DNA is an acid (deoxyribonucleic acid) that forms molecules with a particular twisted double strand. The strand, which looks like a long, twisted ladder, is made up of sugars, phosphates and four specific organic compounds known as nucleotides: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). These nucleotides form the rungs of the DNA ladder and always appear in pairs, called base pairs: adenine with thymine, and guanine with cytosine. A gene is made up of many base pairs, the number of which varies from gene to gene.

Because base pairs are predictable – an A is always found in a bond with a T, and a G always found with a C – one side of the gene (one rail and half of the ladder rungs) exactly predicts what the other half should look like. Inside a cell, DNA can uncoil and split apart like a zipper. Other processes duplicate the missing half, thus reading the gene “instructions” and constructing specific proteins as directed by the gene. These proteins then go on to perform important functions inside the cell.

Mutations are changes in a gene. When mutations cause a mismatch much can go wrong. A mutation could be small, and go unnoticed, or it could delete needed information or make the strand unable to connect entirely. These are serious mutations.

FODs can range in severity from unnoticable to lethal, depending on the mutation and how it affects the metabolism in a person. There is still more to understand about the genetics of FODs, but this is enough to grasp what is going on. Future posts will include more information.

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