All of us like to think we are special. That’s O.K., because we are all unique! Although we all have the same kind of molecule at the core of our reproductive system, every person is different from every other person. This is because of the wonders of what is called ‘the genetic code.’
It’s easy to think of the genetic code as like an alphabet making up words which describe your characteristics. These chemical letters can be put together in countless different ways. Although there is only one ‘genetic code-alphabet’ for all living things on earth, it can produce canaries, carrots or children.
Every living cell has the molecule DNA in it. If unravelled, the DNA blueprint in every one of your cells would stretch for almost two metres. DNA is responsible for all the instructions that determine your physical characteristics.
The total genetic code of an organism is called its genome. The human genome is made up of about three billion chemical pairs. However, we get our human characteristics from a surprisingly small proportion of these pairs. About 30% of our genome is more or less the same as spinach, and over 98% of it is the same as chimpanzees.
What makes you unique is that your arrangement of DNA letters is different from everyone else’s. So next time you look in the mirror, remember that, unless you happen to be an identical twin, there is no other person who looks exactly like you.