I have been fascinated with DNA and genetics for years, and have read a number of books about them. It seems the more I read, the less I know. The terminology is mind numbing and still expanding. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule that carries the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning, and reproduction of all known living organisms. It was first isolated by Friedrich Miescher in 1869. Its molecular structure was identified by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. Since then, the pace of new understanding has continued to accelerate.
A collaboration of German, American and Swiss scientists has created a proteomics structural database of more than 330,000 synthesized peptides. As I read about what the scientists have done, it makes my head hurt trying to understand it. The word proteome is only about 20 years old. The proteome is the entire set of proteins expressed by a genome. Our genome is the complete set of genes present in all of our cells. When scientists use the word “expressed”, they mean our genome contains instructions which cause proteins to be created in our body. Proteins perform a vast array of human functions. The term peptides in the research collaboration refers to chains of amino acids which constitute proteins.
When I set out to write Net Attitude: What It Is, How to Get It, and Why Your Company Can’t Survive Without It in 2001 (and an update in 2016), my goal was to make it easy for people to understand what the Internet is all about and how it works, in layman terms. Readers have said I accomplished that. Some day, I hope to be able to write a book about DNA and the genome and make it understandable. I have a long way to go before I understand enough to begin such a project. My friend, Vint Cerf, wrote an article called Grumpy Cells about how certain aspects of our genome work. I asked him how he learned enough to write it. He suggested I read Bruce Albert’s Microbiology of the Cell. He said it was 1,700+ pages of terrific stuff. I may need a cruise around the world to read it.
If you are interested in the ancestry aspects of DNA, take a look at The Best DNA Test for Ancestry 2020.