DNA Tell Us about Human Health

Ever since the first philosophically inquisitive minds questioned the mechanisms of living organisms and their process’, the scientific community has recorded oscillations in emphasis and bias through conflicting dilemmas. This drive taken toward a commonly identifiable nucleus of knowledge has often been constricted through conflicts between religious and moral anchors and the need for scientists to push the envelope in order to reach that next crucial level of understanding. In 1953 Watson and Crick offered a groundbreaking conclusion to the understanding of DNA; a discovery that would ultimately change the scientific community for ever (Pray, 2008). This double helix theory brought with it a new generation of scientists, questions and techniques and started a new science revolution.

When considering the effects of DNA studies on human health we must think beyond those studies that are directly related to the human body; indeed we must understand that every living organism contains the hereditary molecule DNA. Whether a simple single celled bacterium or a hugely complex multi-cellular structure, either way gene processes and therefore DNA underlie all life processes and the various chain reactions involved with each of those processes. From within the perspective of human health there are certain base requirements that are required in order to promote the human life cycle; the human body requires nutrition and proteins to provide energy and cell structure; It also requires various chemicals and chemical processes to take place in order to support cellular respiration, growth and development and to fight off infections and viruses; the list is infinite and DNA is intrinsic to the success of each of these processes.

At a basic level we understand that the processes of DNA replication produce polypeptides of amino acids which correspond to proteins; something we have already identified as a key requirement for the human structure. If a mutation in the DNA was to occur during this process the domino effect could be potentially catastrophic if not fatal. This has led to a major increase in the amount of genetic studies such as recombinant DNA technologies. The human race suffers from many debilitating human conditions that are directly linked to parental DNA heredity and not attributed to random mutation; DNA studies can often indicate not just the cause of said conditions but also highlight areas where the manipulation of DNA or other factors may reduce the intensity of a known condition, such as cystic fibrosis or breast cancer.

In their 2004 report, Diabetes UK estimated there are almost 3 million Type 1 Diabetes sufferers in the UK alone, with 5% of the global population diagnosed with Diabetes; a figure doubling every 3rd generation (www.diabetes.org, 2009). Recombinant DNA studies back in 1978 led to the in vitro synthesis of human DNA insulin (blog.targethealth.com, 2009), a naturally produced hormone and a key player within the human endocrine system. More recently there have been claims that through DNA studies and recombinant DNA research, a possible cure to infertility has been discovered.

A laboratory in Newcastle, UK, has confirmed the synthesis of a fully functional sperm; grown in vitro from stem cells taken from a human embryo this announcement is the latest breakthrough in the fight against infertility. This treatment may possibly offer infertile males with a low or nil sperm count the chance to have artificial sperm grown from their own skin cells. Some may say that as far as human health is concerned where lays any benefit of such nature. Human health holds a plethora of implications, one of which must surely relate to mental health; after all on a genetic level all organisms have an overwhelming desire to reproduce, to advance their species.

Genetics based studies have proved to be a catalysis for other studies beyond those directly related to the human body. As a carbon based heterotrophic organism the human body requires a constant intake of nutrition in order to support the life process and promote cellular activity; we are totally dependent on the quality and often quantity of our food source. Increases in population size only act to catalyse the depletion of these naturally sustainable nutritional resources which in over time positively correlates to a disruption of the carbon life cycle resulting in soil degradation and therefore a possible reduction in the quantity of organic matter.

As a result studies into genetically modified food supplies have been at the forefront of many recent debates. The modification of the DNA of a particular food source can hold many benefits to human health; producing a greater yield or increased reproductive probability, even the ability to grow in areas of soil degradation. As Peter Russell (2009, 284) confirms “Genetically modified crop plants have been altered to increase the production of amino acids or vitamins, with the goal of making the crop more nutritious. Such plants potentially could help with alleviating world hunger.”

Pharmaceutical based studies into medicines directed toward viruses borne of bacterial DNA have also increased exponentially over recent years, especially following modern day global pandemics such as HIV and more recently the H1N1 virus. Indeed the various DNA based studies that have taken place in order to understand and treat these highly successful bacterial strains that are to be attributed to the treatments available today. In order to understand a complex bacterium its hereditary material must be understood along with any effect this may have on the human immune system. This level of understanding requires the employment of DNA based studies and often the subsequent cloning of these bacterial DNA, coupled with some recombinant DNA research technology to manipulate DNA structures in order to find a key to any treatment.

Of course there are always those in opposition to any studies of such nature; most moral judgements are religiously based and therein lay the basis for the majority of arguments. Although we must never lose sight of these counter arguments as they act to refocus public and scientific attention, the scientific and public communities are becoming more resilient toward the topics involved with DNA and genetic studies; this once dichotomous relationship appears to be finally unifying with the understanding that some steps are needed in order to improve human health.


Alberts, B; Johnson, A; Lewis, J; Raff, M; Roberts, K; Walter, P. 2008. Molecular Biology of The Cell 5th edition. New York: Garland Science, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Russell, J. 2009. iGenetics; A Molecular Approach 3rd edition. San Fransisco, USA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Cain, M; Campbell, A; Jackson, R; Minorsky, P; Reece, J; Urry, L; Wasserman, S. 2008. Biology 8th edition. San Fransisco, USA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Monger, G; Reiss, M; Roberts, M. 1993. Biology: Principles and Processes. Hong Kong: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd

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