3D DNA Pipe Cleaner Project

by Brenda Priddy
DNA contains the genetic code for all living creatures.

DNA contains the genetic code for all living creatures.

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DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a set of acids that control the genetic makeup of every living organism. Each organism has a unique set of DNA, which is why it is often used for paternity tests and criminal convictions. All living organisms have DNA, from plants, to animals to humans. Only a few differences separate the species. DNA is a fascinating subject that takes many years to understand. Building a DNA model can help children understand the basic principles of how the acids work.

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How it Works

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is made up of four separate acids: thymine, guanine, adenine and cytosine. These four acid types contain the genetic code for all living organisms. The pattern that the acids use determine how a living organism looks and hosts all genetic anomalies and genetic disorders, if there are any present in that organism. All DNA strands have a start and stop code. Some acids inside DNA will only bond with certain other acids. Thymine and adenine always bond together on opposite sides of the strands and guanine and cytosine always bond together.


This craft requires two pipe cleaners of one color and two to four of another color. You will also need four different colors of beads to represent the acids present in DNA. Pony beads are the right size to slide onto pipe cleaners. You can glue the beads in place with a hot glue gun, or simply twist the ends of the pipe cleaner so the beads cannot fall off.


Cut the colored pipe cleaner into 2-inch sections. Make a total of 12 sections. Assign a color to each acid in DNA. Slide three random beads onto one 2-inch section. This is the DNA start code. For the following sections mix either thymine and adenine or cytosine and guanine beads. Place two beads on each section of piping. Place three stop code beads onto the last pipe cleaner. Line the two long pipe cleaners up like the sides of a ladder. Fit the smaller sections between the two and wrap or glue the pipe cleaners together. Twist the pipe cleaners together to make the DNA shape.


If you don't want to have a model that is quite so delicate or large, you can eliminate the ladder rungs between the two sides of the DNA. Simply slide the beads onto two long pieces of pipe cleaner and twist the two sections together. Make sure the beads along each side of the pipe cleaners are compatible acids for the most accurate model. Younger children may also find this model easier to make.

Photo Credits

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