In the 1950’s, two exceptionally talented scientists, Francis Crick and James Watson, building on the earlier work of their colleague Rosalind Franklin, discovered the DNA double helix: a structure containing the blueprint that makes each individual what they are. It was a momentous discovery that has changed and shaped many aspects of our lives in ways that could not have been imagined 60 years ago.
The Human Genome Project
From this launching point, it took nearly four decades and the efforts of scientists across the global to finally complete the entire mapping of the human genome. This amazing project was completed in 2003. Every aspect of our makeup is driven by the code in our genes and is derived from three billion base pairs in our DNA. What we now know is that DNA plays a major factor in determining our health, longevity, appearance and much more. These genes are inherited from our parents, providing a bond with our close relatives but also with our ancient ancestors. And today’s applications for science—thanks to the discovery of the DNA double helix—are limitless.
DNA Testing Today
The huge array of tests that have been developed as a result of this incredible undertaking, and the truly astounding amount of research it has spawned, will in the long term benefit each and every one of us.
What was once science fiction is truly becoming a reality. In the longer-term, generic products that work on a one-size-fits-all basis will become a thing of the past. Forward-thinking companies that provide health- and beauty-related products already see the need to embrace and harness this newfound knowledge. The exceptional ones are already bringing products to the market based on an individual’s DNA, whether that is a specific exercise regimen or a targeted diet. Lifestyle testing is now readily available and affordable and there are companies like HomeDNA that focus entirely on the development and provision of these tests. We all know that paternity tests are readily available and inexpensive, and individuals can research their genetic ancestry—lifestyle tests are the next frontier.
The benefit we will all get from personalised medicines to combat disease will make the most meaningful impact on our lives, but the ability to focus on tailor- made decisions about health and diet may lead to the possibility of actually reducing the incidence of disease and allow us to live longer and healthier lives.
The Future of the DNA Double Helix
There is still so much to learn about gene function, but the scientific community is well on the way. As businesses see the commercial benefit of investing their time and money into personalised consumerism, this learning process should accelerate. It’s doubtful that Franklin, Crick, and Watson understood the true impact of their discovery and where it would take us in such a short period of time. It was a quantum leap in our understanding of what it is to be human.