Introduction: DNA Earrings

I saw DNA jewelry somewhere online a long time ago when I didn't even have pierced ears.  I almost pierced my ears that day so I could wear them, but it looked complicated and I didn't have a lot of time on my hands.  This year, I've been making them for all my friends and coworkers as Christmas presents---you can too!  They'll even forgive you for their presents being belated since they are so cool.

I'm a high school science teacher.  I thought this would be a fun way for my students to learn the structure of DNA.  Next year, I'll have them make a more educational "model" and come in after school to make these.

I've added tips that I would find helpful when making these as well as some science insights so you can impress all your friends with your DNA brilliance!

Step 1: Materials

*2 pieces of 20 cm (8 in) long 28 gauge wire

*6 different colors of seed beads
  -28 beads to represent sugars
  -28 beads to represent phosphates
  -8 beads to represent Adenine
  -8 beads to represent Thymine
  -8 beads to represent Cytosine
  -8 beads to represent Guanine

*2 earring hooks

*2 earring backs (optional)

Additional possibly useful notes:
-The length of wire does not have to be exact.  20 cm is a good beginning length.  I'm able to use slightly shorter pieces now, but started with really long pieces.
-The number of beads used (and length of wire) can be altered to make the earrings longer. 
-The earring backs are not necessary, but they were only about $3 for an entire package at Michael's.

-The number of Adenine and Thymine beads should be equal, as should the Guanine and Cytosine.  (Chargaff's Rule for you science buffs.) However, you don't have to have 8 of each or have them in any specific order.

Step 2: Getting Organized

Make a keyshowing which color of bead represents each part of a nucleotide (sugar, phosphate, A, T, G, and C.)

Other possibly useful notes:
-Clearly you don't have to make a key and probably have an amazing memory.  Especially when I started a set of earrings and didn't come back to them for a few days, it was a lot easier to have a key.  I think it also makes it easier to follow an instructable, or if you're teaching students to make these.
-I've never laid all the beads out before I start, but the other picture is a good example of how few beads you actually need.

Step 3: The First Row

1. Place the first bead, that represents phosphate (light blue) on the wire.
2. Place the second bead, that represents the sugar (dark blue) on the wire.
3. Place the third bead, that represents the guanine nitrogenous base ( ) on the wire.
4. Place the fourth bead, that represents the cytosine nitrogenous base (  ) on the wire.
5. Place the fifth bead, that represents the sugar (dark blue) on the wire.
6. Place the sixth bead, that represents the phosphate (light blue) on the wire.

The Science Behind the Beauty:
-Adenine (A) always pairs with Thymine (T) in DNA, while Guanine (G) always pairs with Cytosine (C)
...your nitrogenous bases (A, T, G, and C) can be in any order as long as A and T are always next to each other and G and C are always next to each other.  You can see this in my final examples.)

-The sugar (deoxyribose) should always be next to the nitrogenous base (A, T, G, or C) since structurally the base attaches to the sugar.

Step 4: The Second Base Pair

1. Place the next two beads, green and white, on the wire.  Do not let them fall to where the bottom beads are. 
2. Put the other side of the wire through those two beads and pull it tight.

3. You should now have a circle of beads.

Other possibly useful notes:
-In the second picture you'll see that that both pieces of wire sticking out at the top are approximately the same size.  It is CRUCIAL that you make sure that as you pull the wires, to make the circle of beads, both sides of wire remain about the same length.  If you have trouble with this, you can just make your wire a lot longer to start with and it will still work fine.  You'll just have a lot more wire to cut off at the end.  

The Science Behind the Beauty:
*You are adding 2 more nitrogenous bases (adenine and thymine) now.

Step 5: Adding More Beads

1. Place one dark blue bead (sugar) and one light blue bead (phosphate) on each wire.
(Picture 1)

2. Place the next two beads, dark pink and light pink, on the wire.  Do not let them fall to where the bottom beads are. 

3. Put the other side of the wire through those two beads and pull it tight.

(Picture 2)

4. You should now have 2 circles of beads.
(Picture 3)

5. Repeat steps 1-3 five more times. 
(Pictures 4 and 5)

Other possibly useful notes:
-Look at the picture on the next step to see what it is going to look like.  It does not matter if you add a green and white or a dark pink and pink each time.
-You should end up with 7 pairs of dark blue/light blue beads on each side.

The Science Behind the Beauty:
-The dark blue and light blue beads from what looks like a straight line on each side.  This is called the "backbone" of DNA.  It is made of alternating sugars and phosphates.

Step 6: Attaching Hooks

Now you have the entire length of the earring that looks like a lot of connected circles.  You should have some short wires protruding from the top.

1.  String the two wires through the small circle at the bottom of the earring. 
2.  Tie the string in a knot and and wrap it around a few times.

Other possibly useful notes:
-There may be a "right" way to attach wire to an earring hook.  I've just tied it around and wrapped it around.  Sometimes I use needle nose pliers
or scissors to bend the wire more and make sure it's not going to poke anyone.  So far I haven't had any fall off the hook.

Step 7: Double Helix

1. Hold the two ends of the beads.
2. Gently twist the bottom part to the right a couple of times to form the double helix shape.

The Science Behind the Beauty:
Technically DNA has a "right hand twist" like a regular screw.  So there is a wrong way to twist your DNA.

Step 8: Making the Perfect Gift

Add your own personal touches to make your gift even more beautiful!

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