I’ve talked about how I work in a lab before, but haven’t gone into specifics.
There’s a bit of background knowledge needed before you can fully understand what I do at my job though.
I work in a research lab which means I’m a scientist. What type of scientist am I? A biologist!
Biology used to be all about plants and animals and stuff, but since the discovery of DNA that’s changed quite a bit.
Studying animals and plants is now referred to as zoology, botany, or ecology.
Biology now almost exclusively refers the study of DNA and other things related to DNA.
You probably remember learning about DNA in school where your teachers described it as the “instruction manual for your body” or something to that effect.
That’s essentially true. DNA does provide the instructions for building everything in your body. But how does it do that?
DNA is kept inside a protective bubble in your cells called the nucleus. When an invader like bacteria or viruses gets into your cells they are cut off from your DNA by the nucleus.
If invaders could get at your DNA they could alter it. These alterations are what make viruses so dangerous. Alterations can also cause cancer.
But with your DNA cut off from the rest of your cell how does it provide instructions?
DNA produces a copy of its instructions called RNA that leaves the nucleus.
RNA goes to something in your cells called a ribosome.
Ribosomes read the instructions from RNA and create proteins.
This is where I got a little confused in my biology classes. Aren’t proteins just one of those things on the nutrition facts labels?
Turns out proteins are responsible for almost all cellular activity your body performs.
Proteins make your cells move, send signals between cells, help your cells digest things, etc. They do everything.
So the whole process is DNA makes RNA which goes to ribosomes which make proteins. Proteins then go on to do everything else.
In both my labs I study the first step, the organization of DNA and how RNA is made from it.
I’ll tell more about each of my labs in a future post.