40 years ago, scientists coined the term “Junk DNA” to describe the part of the genome that does not contain any genes. Given that genes represent the body’s instructions for how to make vital proteins, egotistical scientists figured Mother Nature must have screwed up in the 98% of the genome without any genes. Or so they thought.
Junk DNA is no more. Hundreds of researchers from 32 institutes around the world collaborated to decipher the odd-duck 98 percent and concluded that the DNA formerly known as junk, functions as an “elaborate patchwork of regulatory sequences that act as a huge operating system for controlling the genome”. They went on to explain that more than 80 percent of the genome works as a kind of control panel packed with genetic dials.
Our genome is simply alive with switches: millions of places that determine whether a gene is switched on or off. We see that 80 per cent of the genome is actively doing something. We found that a much bigger part of the genome – a surprising amount in fact – is involved in controlling when and where proteins are produced.
They noted that defects in this 80 percentile could be responsible for a range of illnesses such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease and lupus.
“This is a major step toward understanding the wiring diagram of a human being [and] helps us to look deeply into the regulatory circuit that tells us how all the parts come together to make a complex being.”
Chalk another one up for Mother Nature.
Source: The Independent