At 40,000 times thinner than a human hair, our DNA isn't usually much to look at. But if you're curious about your genetic material and don't happen to own an electron microscope, a simple experiment can give you a glimpse of life's instruction manual. All you'll need is water, dish soap, food coloring, table salt, rubbing alcohol and your mouth.
The video above, from the PBS science series NOVA, leads you step by step in a do-it-yourself DNA extraction, with scientific asides along the way telling you how, for example, "soap breaks down the cell membranes, releasing the DNA."
When you're done, you'll be left with a stringy, whitish goop—strands of DNA. You won't be able to see individual genes, but even scientists need special tools—more powerful than ordinary microscopes—to see those.
So how does the DNA appear, seemingly out of nowhere? The process is surprisingly simple, and each ingredient adds something in the step-by-step process from ordinary cheek cells to visible genetic material. "DNA normally stays dissolved in water, but when salty DNA comes in contact with alcohol it becomes undissolved," explains the University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center in a similar tutorial. Who knew you could look deep into heart of evolution with nothing more than kitchen supplies and a bit of patience?
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