Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a self-replicating material containing the chemical building blocks that living organisms need to grow, develop, live, and reproduce.

It is passed down from parents to their children although everyone has their own unique DNA. DNA molecules can be found in every cell, and nearly every cell in your body is made up of the same type of DNA.

Reading about DNA can be overwhelming and technical in certain aspects for some. To give you a clearer understanding, we’ve broken down its history below, how it was discovered and the possible future applications DNA can have with further scientific research. See more.

The Discovery of DNA

The father of genetics Gregor Mendel was the first to suggest that certain characteristics and features are passed on from generation to generation. However, the discovery of DNA in 1869 is credited to Johann Friedrich Miescher, a biochemist and researcher from Switzerland.

Miescher’s original goal was to study the composition of white blood cells. In the course of his research, he managed to isolate a new molecule which he called ‘nuclein’. Nucleons are a type of DNA associated with proteins.

The significance of DNA in the world of science didn’t become prevalent until the early 1940s when scientists and medical professionals began to research into the role of DNA in genetic inheritance. James Watson and Francis Crick were the biggest contributors in this field, building on Miescher’s research.

Paternity DNA Testing

In 1986 Dr. Alec Jeffreys made it possible for members of the public to access genetic fingerprinting. It was first used in a criminal investigation to identify a person behind two crimes in the United Kingdom, using samples of fingerprints as well as DNA samples.

As well as genetic fingerprinting, Dr. Jeffreys also made it possible for the public to conduct identity tests. The first real DNA test used restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis. Of course, technology and science have only grown more refined since then.

DNA tests are now able to determine the biological father of a fetus as early as 7 weeks into the pregnancy. DNA samples are collected from the mother and prospective father. Results are also not much of a hassle to receive either.

Postnatal paternity tests are also conducted in the same simple method of sample collection. A simple swab to collect cheek cells is enough for both parties concerned.

Once all DNA samples are received, results take between 1 to 2 business days for standard paternity tests. A simple “paternity testing near me” search will pinpoint you to the closest testing facility in your locality.

The Future of DNA Testing

DNA testing has become accepted in modern society such that it is deemed accurate enough to be taken as an absolute truth in a court of law. Anyone can take a DNA test by simply buying paternity testing kits from drugstores and pharmacies near you and conduct the test at a time and place of your convenience.

The world of medicine has also seen its advancements thanks to advancements in DNA technology. DNA testing can now help to root out certain genetic conditions that were previously passed on unsuspected from the parent to the child.

All in all, the more possibilities get discovered from DNA, the more gigantic the leaps humanity will take.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "History of DNA: Everything You Need to Know," in Medicalopedia, October 21, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/9325/history-of-dna-everything-you-need-to-know/].