Asked by: Wendy Beech, Lewes
The role of DNA is to provide instructions that allow amino acids (the building blocks of proteins needed for the processes of life) to be assembled correctly. DNA also allows those same instructions to be passed down the generations.
But DNA isn’t unique in this ability, as the related molecule RNA can perform similar functions. It’s also possible that alien life exploits radically different ways of achieving similar ends.
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.