A lesson in DNA - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

A lesson in DNA

August 23, 2005

Thomasville-- What 7th grader David Ross learned in science Tuesday could help him in either of his career choices in years to come. He wants to "Either become a doctor or to become a scientist," says Ross.

Ross is learning how to take apart and extract DNA, a lesson rarely taught until high school at minimum. "Now we get a hands-on experience," says Ross.

Ross' teacher at MacIntyre Park Middle School learned that experience this summer from professors at the University of Georgia. "What we did was work together to bring it to the middle school level as an enrichment," says Virginia Wood.

That's because MacIntyre Park is trying to accelerate its students' learning level. "When they go to high school, they'll already know most of this material," says Wood.

The DNA that students extracted is similar to a process the UGA professors are experimenting with. They're trying to create a non-allergenic peanut. "They're going to isolate the gene that causes the person to be allergic and replace it with a gene that is non-allergic," says Wood.

That may sound easy, but it's not. Even at the students' level it's a tedious process. Salt and soap buffer and clean the specimen. Then alcohol brings the DNA into place. "That coldness shocks it and makes the DNA rise to the highest level," says Wood.

From there, the identification and transfer process begins. Confusing? That's why students like Ross are learning it so early. "It will give me a push so I know what I'm doing," he says. He and the other 22 students who got hooked on DNA today.

Besides non-allergenic peanuts, the professors at UGA are also working on a type of grass that tolerates droughts.

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