DNA workshop in SMK Convent Sitiawan

20 June 2019

Can you think of any examples that are small and mighty? Some may say ants, mouse or even vitamins but I think the real answer is our DNA. Never can I imagine a teeny tiny molecule that could only be observed under a microscope to carry a trillion years of the body’s family secret. They are like footprints we leave on earth, except they can never be washed off.

This is good news to humankind because it helps us digging into our ancestry and family heritage. For one woman – Lydia Fairchild in Washington State, it was the DNA test that let her discover her twin she never met.

Back then when she was 26 years old, she wanted to apply for government assistance as she was struggling as a single mother of two with a third child on the way. In order to qualify, she had to undergo DNA testing to prove that she was the mother to her children. When the results came back, her world was shattered by an unexpected revelation – she was not the mother of her two children.

How could this be when she carried all her children for 10 months? Now facing criminal charges for fraud, she was ordered to have a court representative to be present at the birth of her third child for an immediate DNA test, which the results came back as negative again.

Further DNA analysis showed that Fairchild was more like an aunt to her children than a mother, but the twist is she didn’t have a sister. There could be only one answer to this – chimera which is a rare genetic condition in which her body absorbed her twin into her own body when she was a fetus.

Amazing, isn’t it that DNA could reveal so much truth of the human body? Now think what this little spiral molecule can contribute to the medical world if we go researching deeper. Since studies suggest that genetic disorders have been written on our DNAs, it’s very useful especially in illness prevention. That is only if we can decode them.

To achieve this, bioinformatics analysis comes to play and Dr Song Beng Kah demonstrated how this is done at his DNA workshop at SMK Convent Sitiawan on 20 June. Students learnt how the genetic information in the DNA allows production of proteins in body, and determine the characteristics of a person, such as skin or eye color, and eventually transmitting characteristics from parents to children. A few experiments were carried out too to get the students’ hands dirty. Among them are DNA extraction from papaya cubes, gel electrophoresis and DNA sequence assembly using props.

Link to Lydia Fairchild’s story:

  1. https://www.businessinsider.com/lydia-fairchild-is-her-own-twin-2014-2?IR=T
  2. https://globalgenes.org/2014/09/09/dna-test-proves-chimera-incidence-washington-woman/