Nowadays we’ve certainly got viruses on our minds. Everyone at HQ hopes our players are staying healthy and safe from SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that’s changed our lives so drastically this year! But what is a virus? How is it seen as different from living things?
A common misconception is that while living things transmit genetic information through DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), viruses only transmit genetic information through the more primitive RNA (ribonucleic acid). However, this is not true. Many viruses use RNA, but some actually use DNA, including the viruses responsible for smallpox and chickenpox! If you want to differentiate viruses from living things, scientists who make this distinction usually will tell you it’s because viruses can only replicate themselves by using a living host, and because viruses don’t require any actual energy to survive.
Right now it would of course feel pretty one-sided to hold a “Living Things vs. Viruses” competition on Eyewire. But inspired by the categories of DNA viruses and RNA viruses, let’s hold a VS for something a little more challenging: what’s your favorite nucleic acid? This competition starts at 11 AM EDT on 10/5 and goes for 48 hours!
- This nucleic acid is composed using the sugar deoxyribose (C5H10O4). Its helical shape has two strands.
- DNA can resist alkaline (high pH) conditions, but it can be damaged by ultraviolet light.
- In humans, DNA is what actually stores our genetic information, tells our bodies how to make more cells, and copies itself in our offspring. And DNA is fully self-replicating.
- This nucleic acid is composed using the sugar ribose (C5H10O5). Its shape has only one strand.
- RNA is resilient against ultraviolet light, but it can be damaged by a high pH.
- Yes, RNA also exists in humans! It doesn’t serve DNA’s function; rather, it can be produced by DNA, and our bodies use it to tell our cells’ ribosomes to create proteins.
Bonuses are detailed in your notifications. Good luck! For science!
Artwork by Elena Daly