Teaching DNA with bananas at ASU Night at the Open Door

Teaching DNA with bananas at ASU Night at the Open Door

All living creatures have DNA including the friends we meet and the bananas we eat! The Wilsons Sayres Lab at ASU is working to uncover the mysteries hidden in DNA and they are getting help from some of their youngest friends. 

banana, dna, evolution, medicine

The lab set out last weekend to help children discover that every living thing has DNA by extracting samples from bananas at ASU’s annual Night at the Open Door event. “We have such a blast showing people how DNA is all around them, and that they can do this science at home,” said Dr. Melissa Wilson Sayres.

For the experiment, children mashed up bananas in dish-soapy water for messy fun. The soap helps break the bananas down into cellular components. The banana mush is then filtered through coffee filters into a graduated cylinder. Isopropyl alcohol is slowly added into the graduated cylinder and creates a layered effect. The banana DNA then extracts itself from the murky banana mush below and floats into the clear alcohol layer. “Extracting DNA is exciting for people of all ages, it makes this concept that’s thrown around in the news tangible” said Wilson Sayres, “literally – they can touch it!”

Dr. Melissa Wilson Sayres is a professor in the School of Life Sciences and a faculty member in the Center for Evolution & Medicine. The Wilson Sayres Lab studies sex chromosome evolution, sex-biased processes, population genetics, and comparative genomics. The lab regularly participates in community events to promote involvement in science to all learners. They recently judged research projects at a local Middle School science fair in Mesa, AZ. The lab also engages with the public on blogs and at Ask a Scientist, and hosted a booth about genetics at ASU’s Homecoming. The Wilson Sayres lab will also be, for the second year, participating in a series of science-themed panels at Phoenix Comicon. 

ASU Night at the Open Door is an annual open house event that invites community members throughout the valley to engage with interactive demonstrations of science, arts, and culture. The event has grown exponentially over the past few years and a night of education exploration takes place on each ASU campus. This year’s event on the Tempe Campus was held the evening of February 27th.  

wilson sayres lab, asu, evolution, medicine, night at the open door