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Only 1 of 24 DNA strands used?

Mr JN Goulding jgouldin at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk
Wed Jul 25 04:37:50 EST 2001

A few years ago somebody gave my name and address to one of those cults
out there (a fairly common occurance with my friends) but this one talked
about how a set number of believers would be saved (the number was
supposably a mystical number, but was something to do with computers) and
that being saved meant that you would upgrade from having 2 stranded DNA
to the full complement of 24, like the aliens who were going to save
you. To be saved buy these several books and tapes, and send cheques

The whole thing was wrapped up in pseudoscience, using technical terms
and quasiexplanations to justify it and to try and sound as though they
were real. Must admit, we had quite a laugh at work from it, and quotes
ended up stuck to our 377 for a time. But it sounds like this email may
well be to do with that, cos when I read it that was what it sounded
like. Unfortunatly I can't remember the name of the organisation, but it
does sound like this query is actually from them.

have fun,


On 24 Jul 2001 Bill_A_Nussbaumer at bd.com wrote:

> Despite the slightly condescending tone of the reply, Dr. Farrell is right
> that your question seems to be using terminology incorrectly and is
> probably thus confusing most "would be respondents".  The other explanation
> is that you just haven't given us enough information in context to make
> sense of your question.
> I'm curious where you heard the statement.  ????
> Perhaps, in addition to the information already given, you might be making
> reference to what is commonly referred to as "junk DNA".  In short, junk
> DNA refers to those areas of the genome that do not contain protein coding
> genes.  These regions are estimated to make up some 97 - 99 percent of the
> total DNA sequence in humans.  Keep in mind though that the term "junk DNA"
> is quite possibly a misnomer.  A more accurate description would probably
> be "DNA of unknown function". (Leaving open the possibility that some may
> have no function at all.)
> Regarding the number of chromosomes:  Although there are 23 pairs of
> chromosomes in the cell, there are actually 24 different chromosomes in all
> (22 autosomes plus 2 sex chromosomes -  X and Y).  Only males would carry
> all 24 since females have no copy of the Y chromosome.
> Regarding your use of the terminology "strand".  A DNA molecule consists of
> two "strands", each strand is a linear series of nucleotide bases paired
> with the opposite strand.  Therefore, each individual chromosome could be
> said to contain two strands.  If you use this definition there would be 2
> strands X 2 matching chromosomes (because, as described by Dr. Farrell,
> humans are diploid and contain 2 copies of each chromosome) x 23
> chromosomes = 92 strands comprised from 46 DNA molecules.  It's all
> semantics really, but correct terminology is important for clear
> communication.
> By the way, all 24 of the chromosomes are actively used.
> It might be interesting for you to see a representation of the genes
> contained on the 24 different chromosomes here:
> http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/Entrez/maps.cgi?ORG=hum&MAPS=ideogr,loc&CHR=1
> - Bill Nussbaumer
> Sent by:  owner-microbio at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk
> To:   microbio at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk
> cc:
> Subject:  Re: Only 1 of 24 DNA strands used?
> Ron Newman wrote:
> > I recently heard the statement "only 1 of  24 'strands' of  human DNA
> > actively used".
> >
> > a)  Is this accurate?
> > b) Is there a good reference on it?
> > c) If true, are the 23 unused portions simply redundant systems, are they
> > mutated, or do they
> > have other potential function?
> You have posted this question several times without receiving any replies.
> In my opinion, the reason for the lack of response is related to a major
> lack
> of understanding of biology (human and otherwise) indicated in your post,
> on
> both the part of the person who made the statement to you and on your part.
> A complete reply would (apparently) require a complete course in biology,
> which no one is willing to provide.  Let me hit only the highest of the
> high
> points related to your question, leaving filling in of the details to you,
> either by studying some basic biology texts or by asking questions of your
> local high school or college biology teacher.
> Human cells, except for germ (reproductive) cells, contain 23 pairs of
> chromosome, with each chromosome consisting of 2 strands of DNA, thus there
> are not 24 strands of DNA in a human cell but 46.  For each gene in each
> chromosome, only one strand of the DNA comprising the gene is expressed,
> with
> the other strand being used primarily to dictate what sequence of bases
> should be linked together to make a new "active" strand when the DNA is
> replicated.  The active strand is not the same strand throughout a given
> chromosome.  That is, for adjacent genes, opposite strands may be
> expressed.
> In a very small nutshell, then, the original statement made to you makes
> absolutely no sense at all, for the reasons cited above and explained in
> much
> greater detail in a huge number of basic biology books available in any
> library.
> --
> Larry D. Farrell, Ph.D.
> Professor of Microbiology
> Idaho State University
> ---

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