550 students isolated DNA from bananas to create Guinness World Record

Ram Singh, a gardener at GD Goenka Public School here, purchased 15 dozen bananas from a local market for a record-breaking feat that 550 students of the school were about to attempt on Saturday.

At midday, the students from Classes VII to XII had taken their place in chairs lined up on one end of the school premises. They were ready to extract deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA — the hereditary material in almost all organisms, including humans — from bananas using a custom-made kit to become the largest group of people to conduct the exercise simultaneously.

The exercise was a part of the fourth edition of the India International Science Festival (IISF) that began in Lucknow on Friday.

In about an hour, the students succeeded in extracting DNA from bananas, some after several attempts, to break the previous Guinness World Record held by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, where 302 students had attempted to extract DNA from a fruit in February 2017.

The new record for most people conducting a DNA isolation experiment simultaneously was completed in 61 minutes by the 550 students. The Principal of the school received the Guinness World Records (GWR) certificate after the exercise. On Sunday, another group attempted to create a world record for the largest number of people receiving first-aid classes and succeeded.

Before the event began, Department of Biotechnology secretary Renu Swarup was confident of success. “We are going to win…What will we say when we win?” she asked the students. “Jai Hind,” a student responded.

It was papayas that were going to be dissected first. “It was too slimy,” said Modhumita Dasgupta of the Institute of Forest Genomics and Tree Breeding in Coimbatore — the instructor at the event.

Dasgupta and her student Muneera Parveen had handed over the custom-made kits to each student before the event and conducted a trial run on ‘How to isolate DNA from a Banana slice, the easy way’.

“DNA is so crucial. Yesterday, I faced so many interesting questions from them (students), some were surprised that even a banana has DNA,” Dasgupta said, adding that such events were a great way to bring science to students.

Guinness World Records adjudicator, Rishi Nath, who monitored the event, said India seldom offers ‘quirky’ record setting events like the ones he has adjudicated elsewhere — the largest number of people dressed as ghosts for the Ghost Busters premiere in Singapore or the making of the longest rug in Borneo by warring tribal factions as a sign of peace.

“But it is not my place to comment on what is quirky and what is not, I am here to check if I can award a record title,” he said.

“I have been told that there will be a precipitate that forms at the end, and that is an indication that the DNA has been isolated,” he said. But, the children were not allowed to talk to each other or over the phone during the exercise, he warned.