Sunday, December 2, 2012

What DNA Actually Looks Like

See on - Perspectives on Health

DNA, we are taught early on, is colorful. The building block of life is not just a whirligig-like twist, its purines and pyrimidines neatly paired and labeled. It is also an explosion of primary reds and blues and greens and yellows, the As and the Gs and the Cs and the Ts linked together to create a kind of modified, twisted rainbow.

Of course, that rendering takes artistic license. Watson and Crick determined DNA’s structure [pdf, but a highly awesome one] based on a combination of sophisticated guesswork and, crucially, X-ray crystallography — and that remains a workable, and powerful, technique for visualizing DNA strands. But crystallography creates its own kind of rendering: It’s a technology whose imaging power relies on diffracted light.

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