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DNA DAY 2023

Did you know that you have 67 billion miles of DNA inside your body?

Today is DNA Day 2023!

Fifty years ago in 1953, the structure of our DNA was discovered (the ‘double helix’).

Twenty years ago, the Human Genome Project completed mapping all of our genes.

Since these milestones, our understanding of how our genes link to human health has been revolutionised. Now, we can associate specific genes with certain diseases and develop drugs to target these genes.

The genetic data in UK Biobank, in combination with other data such as medical or lifestyle, is enabling scientists to conduct vital research for human health.

The Exome

UK Biobank have mapped the genes in the exomes of over 470, 000 participants. This data is available to scientists investigating links between these genes and our most major diseases.

The exome comprises two percent of our genome (all the genes we have). In this region, many disease-causing or rare genes are found. These genes ‘code’ for the proteins in our body that conduct life-sustaining reactions. If a specific gene is mutated, the mutation may result in a faulty protein, causing disease. It is therefore very important to pinpoint these genes.

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Whole Genome Sequencing

UK Biobank have already released whole genome data on 200,000 participants. This autumn, the release of whole genome data for the remaining 300,000 participants is highly anticipated.

Combining whole genome data with UK Biobank’s rich existing clinical and lifestyle data will enable researchers to decipher how the genetic risk of disease varies in individuals.

Understanding these patterns in the data will reveal new drug targets for treating disease.

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There are more than 24,000 active genes inside a human cell controlling biochemical processes that underpin life!


Scientists have investigated the causes of ageing and age-associated diseases, by measuring the length of telomeres in all 500,000 UK Biobank participants.

Telomeres are tiny regions of DNA located on the end of chromosomes (long DNA molecules). The length of telomeres may indicate biological ageing.

Comparing telomere length between individuals could illuminate whether such variation is associated with the risk of certain diseases.

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