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What Does a DNA Scientist Do?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 April 2014
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A deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) scientist is someone who works with sophisticated technology and computers to better understand genetics and DNA. DNA serves as the blueprint or guide to how the basic building blocks of all life on the planet are constructed. Made of long chains of polymers and connected into shapes referred to as a double helix, DNA carries the genetic instructions necessary for the development and functioning of all known modern organisms as well as some viruses. A DNA scientist tries to better understand the structures, functions, and purposes of DNA for medical research, criminal investigations, and bioengineering efforts.

While DNA itself is fairly simple, in that it is among the smallest and most basic components of life, it is also simultaneously complex, and it can be difficult to fully understand just how it functions. What a DNA scientist does is try to fully understand the millions of lines of encoded genetic information contained in the various strands of DNA found throughout the body of any living organism. This includes the completion of the International Human Genome Project, in which scientists managed to nearly completely map out the genes found in human DNA.

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The research and efforts of a DNA scientist may lead to breakthroughs in medical treatments and technology, criminal forensics, and innovations such as nanotechnology, cloning, and genetic engineering. Better understanding of human DNA through the work performed by a DNA scientist can help medical researchers understand how viruses, bacteria, and cancer can affect the human body and cause harmful results. If scientists can fully understand what part of the genetic code allows a cell to become cancerous, or results in birth defects and other genetic disabilities, then they may be closer to finding ways to prevent such illnesses.

Use of DNA in criminal cases, through the use of evidence such as blood or semen, has resulted in prosecutors having more tools with which to convict criminals and exonerate the innocent. While a law enforcement officer may gather the evidence, a DNA scientist will typically process the evidence to establish if it matches the DNA of a suspect. Such evidence can be complicated and was initially defended against by making the technology seem faulty or difficult to understand. As the general public has become more comfortable with understanding DNA, however, such attempts became less effective.

A DNA scientist may also work in growing fields that exist on the cutting edge of developing technology. Nanomachines smaller than a single cell and injected into the human body to fight illness, cloning of individual organs for those in need of transplants, and the engineering of genetically preferable fruits and vegetables are all examples of work being performed by DNA scientists. While these types of research may have moral or cultural consequences to be debated by politicians, religious leaders, and philosophers, the actual work is being performed by scientists and researchers.

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