It turns out I have a lot more in common with a banana than I first thought. No, I don’t have yellow skin. I don’t bruise easily. And nobody waits until I am over-ripe to bake me into delicious bread. But under my skin, inside it even, I share one very important thing with bananas: deoxyribonucleic acid.
DNA serves as the basic building block of all life, and about half of mine (and yours) is identical to that of a banana. Granted, ours is a bit longer (23 pairs of chromosomes to just 11 pairs in the fruit that made Chiquita famous) and more complex, but there’s a genetic kinship there that will make me think twice before ordering my next smoothie. If that half-banana stat has got you thinking about checking the “fruit” box next time you’re asked your ethnicity, here’s another fun fact for you: All human DNA is 99 percent identical. It’s that one percent that accounts for all of our differences. The spots where there are changes are called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, and they can change the color of your hair, the moisture in your earwax and your probability of developing diseases during your lifetime. It’s those portions of the DNA that scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation—and throughout the world—are focusing on as they seek to unlock the secrets of human disease.
DNA is inside the cells of every living thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a banana, a fruit fly, a tree or an almost-middle-aged writer. Here’s what I found when I peeled back the skin of my own DNA.