DNA Sweets

24 Oct

The Manchester Science Festival is in full swing and I’ll be heading down to the Science Spectacular in the Manchester Museum on Saturday (October 29th) to do some take away science! One of the activities that you can come along and try (and take away – y’get it?!) is DNA sweets. As the name may suggest, you can make a model of DNA out of sweets. In case you can’t make the day, here’s how to make your own model instead. I adapted this from a website’s instructions you can see here.

Step 1 – Your bits and pieces

  • 10 wine gums to in 4 colours – the different colours represent the bases A,T,C and G. It doesn’t matter which colour represents which base but because C always pairs up with G and A always pairs up with T you have to make sure you have the right number of each (i.e. equal amounts of A and T, and equal amounts of C and G).
  • 2 strawberry pencil candies – these will represent the sugar-phosphate backbone of the DNA.
  • 5 cocktails sticks – for structural support.
  • 1 pipe cleaner – also to hold the model together but you also use is to carry/hang the DNA. If you can’t get hold of a pipe cleaner, wire would do.

Step 2 – Matching up your bases

Match together the As and Ts, and Cs and Gs. In this case C is red, G is black, T is yellow and A is orange. Carefully (I manages to give myself a splinter) poke the cocktail stick through the two matched up bases.

Step 3 – Attach the base pairs to a pipe cleaner

Wrap the end of the pipe cleaner around the cocktail stick in between the wine gums.

Step 4- Attach all the base pairs to the pipe cleaner

Pretty self explanatory. Leave about an inch between the cocktail stick of each base pair.

Step 5 – Add the strawberry pencil/phosphate back bone

Poke the cocktail stick from the first base pair you attached to the pipe cleaner through the tip of the strawberry pencils.

Step 6 – Create the double helix

You do this by twisting the next cocktail stick so its at a 90 degree angle to the cocktail stick above it and while it’s at this angle push the strawberry pencil through the cocktail stick. Repeat this for all the cocktail sticks/base pairs until they are all attached the strawberry lace/phosphate sugar back bone.

Step 7 – Give it a twist

Finally, give it a twist to emphasise the double helix structure and voila – DNA made from sweets!

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