The full scientific name for DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid. Passed from adult organisms to their offspring, it contains the genetic instructions for the design of that organism.
DNA stores genetic information in one of four chemical bases that pair up with each other. The order of the pairs is what makes each person's DNA unique. Found inside the cell nucleus, very small portions of DNA are packaged into individual chromosomes. Human babies receive exactly half of their DNA from their mother and half from the father, creating a new, unique, person.
First observed in the 1800s by Swiss Biochemist Frederich Miescher, it took scientists nearly a century to discover the importance of DNA in life. Visual representations of DNA take the form of a double helix model, which resembles a ladder. Each rung of the ladder is made up a base pair. The bases pair in a very specific pattern, with adenine always pairing with thymine and cytosine always pairing with guanine. The predictability of these pairings has made it easier for scientists to understand how DNA works. During cell division, the base pairs split up, with each base connecting with a different counterpart, which leads to the formation of new cells.