What is the Science Behind DNA Art?

As a molecular biologist, I found the subject of DNA Art to be interesting. It has been referred to as fine, art, modern art, abstract art, and contemporary art. Essentially, it is a digitally optimized image of the electrophoresis process in which DNA fragments are separated.Lets first look at the Science behind DNA Art99.9% of all human DNA is identical, so that part of our genetic code is overlooked. If this was taken into consideration, the DNA Art would be identical from person-to-person. Therefore, it is the remaining 0.01% of the DNA where variation occurs that is taken into account when creating this artwork. This part of the genome contains what is currently considered non-coding or “junk” DNA. The typical laboratory process in for this kind of DNA testing is as follows:

After the laboratory receives the sample, it is first amplified by a technique called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Since this creates millions of copies of the chromosomal regions of interest, the lab will then have an optimal sample size to proceed in the testing process.
Next, the DNA fragments undergo gel electrophoresis, in which they are then pulled through an agarose gel with an electric field. This charge is created by placing a positive electrode to the opposite end of the gel. DNA characteristically has a negative charge from the phosphate ions in the sugar-phosphate “backbone”. Thus, the factors impeding the sample in the agarose gel would be size, shape, and charge. The image seen in artwork is actually digitally optimized image of the fragments in the gel.
Lastly, the DNA undergoes evaluation utilizing short tandem repeat (STR) technology. An allelic ladder can now be used to differentiate between the chromosomal locations on the DNA fragments. This ladder is used to evaluate the regions of variability on the DNA fragments.
What can be determined about someone from the image of this DNA Art?The part of the DNA utilized in most DNA Artwork is the non-coding regions, also known as “junk” DNA. This is part of the DNA does not contain any medical information and cannot be used in any way to make any health predictions. However, it is somewhat of a medical mystery since we do not know what it is used to code for. But, hopefully sometime in the near future geneticists will have yet another breakthrough and put this mystery to rest.To learn more about DNA Art, please visit: DNA Art Online

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