What is DNA?

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a very important molecule found in all living cells. It contains information used in everyday metabolism and growth and influences most of our characteristics.

DNA is often described as the blueprint of an organism. It enables various cells to develop and work together to form a fully functional body, and controls characteristics such as eye colour. How much DNA influences very complex features, such as intelligence, is not yet fully understood.

The information that DNA contains is passed from one generation to the next. There is much debate over how much of what we are like is due to inheritance and defined by our DNA, and how much is defined by the influence of the environment. This is sometimes referred to as the 'nature/nurture' debate.

Using gene technology, DNA can be modified or transferred from one organism to another. Genes are made up of short lengths of DNA and modern gene technology is able to make changes at the level of individual genes.