Learning about DNA and RNA molecules

Understanding how our genetic material works can be fascinating, but have you ever had problems visualizing these microscopic molecules in biology or chemistry classes? It is sometimes even harder to understand how they are organized following complicated physical rules! To solve this problem in teaching we created the game Replica. By playing Replica you will learn the basic compositions of our genetic material in a fun and engaging way. Learning biology was never so easy!

You can now download the game here!

We hope you have as much fun playing the game as we had while developing it!

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Science behind Replica

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a spectacular molecule composed of two chains of chemical structures called nucleotides. This molecule carries the instructions that govern form, fit and function of living organisms. What amazes us most is that all known forms of life use the DNA molecule to pass heritable information on to next generations! One can imagine that a big book is needed to carry all the information of life. Not by chance, DNA molecules are big, and the human genome is composed of about 2.9 billion pairs of nucleotides in total.

But how does the DNA carry such important information? The DNA beholds the information of life by organizing its four basic components in specific orders. These four basic components are nucleotides named Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine and Guanine, but we usually just call them A, T, C and G. The DNA molecule organizes itself in segments of A, T, C and G to create chains. For example, ATG is a small DNA molecule composed by three nucleotides: adenine (A), thymine (T) and guanine (G). The DNA forms such long chains (with millions and billions of nucleotides!) that it can carry the information of life in these sequences. 

Cells don’t use all the information inside the DNA at once. This means that specific segments of DNA can be “read” to execute different functions when needed. In biology, we call this amazing ability “transcription”. For example, because the cells in our skin “read” different sections of the DNA than the cells in our brains, our skin and our brain can execute different functions. Because the genetic information is so precious, it needs to be kept safe and intact. 

All living organisms “read” the DNA and decode its messages by creating a new ribonucleic acid (RNA) chain. The RNA has a lot in common with the DNA, but there are important differences. RNA is a lot smaller because it is created from sections of the DNA that are being “read”. Whereas the DNA is formed by two chains of  nucleotides, the RNA is formed by a single chain. In addition, the RNA has a different nucleotide composition: Adenine, Uracil, Cytosine and Guanine – A, U, C and G. Note that DNAs use Thymine (T) and RNAs use Uracil (U). By creating RNA molecules, cells can “read” the hidden secrets of the DNA to make proteins.

By playing the game Replica you will learn the basic compositions of the DNA and RNA and how these molecules are synthetized to create nucleotide chains. We hope you have as much fun playing the game as we had while developing it!

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