The Basics of DNA Extraction

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DNA or Deoxyribonucleic acid is the blueprint of life. All living things, from bacteria, to plants and animals, all have DNA in their cells. It is characterized as a very long molecule made up of nucleotide chains. The order that these nucleotides are arranged determines a species’ similarity to another species. But since these DNA are on a molecular level in terms of size, studying them was a challenge.

DNA isolation is needed for a thorough study. First, you need to get it out of the cell, and then separated from the cellular fluid and proteins to get the DNA that we’re familiar with.

The Basics of DNA Extraction

If you’re looking to build a career with a focus on DNA, it is important to learn more about isolating it for further study. You may be enthralled with the idea that you’re getting closer to the “genetic code” or “blueprint” of life, but it takes a lot of effort and dedication to really know about the process.

Going back a bit in history, the first person to successfully isolate the DNA is Friedrich Miescher, a Swiss physician. He did this back in 1869, as a part of his research project to determine the chemical composition of cells, which in turn, would help him unravel the fundamental principles of a cell’s life.

The process of DNA isolation involves three steps, which we’ll list and describe here.


The first step is lysis, where the cell and the nucleus are broken open to forcibly release the DNA inside. To do this, you can mechanically disrupt the cells to break them. You can use a tissue homogenizer like a small blender, or by cutting the tissue into smaller pieces. You can also use detergents and enzymes to dissolve the cellular protein, thus freeing the DNA.


The next step is precipitation, which is done to separate the DNA from cell debris caused by mashing up cell parts. This is basically the initial clean up step, where you remove the DNA from the unwanted debris caused by the extraction process. First thing to do is to use Na+ ions to neutralize the negative charges of your DNA molecules, making them more stable and less likely to dissolve in water. Once done, you can add alcohol like ethanol so that the DNA will precipitate out of the solution since it is not alcohol soluble.


The last step is purification, which from the term itself, is the process to further remove any unwanted material and cellular debris remaining from the first two steps. This is done so by rinsing it with alcohol. The purified DNA is then re-dissolved in water to make it easier to handle and store.

Following Miescher’s first successful attempt at isolating DNA back in 1869, many advances have been made to improve the process. There are many specialized extraction methods, making the study of DNA easier and less labor-intensive and time-consuming. This makes the field more attractive for those who want to learn more about the blueprint of life itself.

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