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Posted by on Sep 7, 2012 in Science |

They discover that the “junk DNA” is actually crucial to our operation

(Cc) Natmandu

Almost 10 years ago, the Human Genome Project gave the first clues of what makes up our core as a species. However, we could not determine what it was an important part of what is found there – under the assumption that everything conforms us has a purpose.

In the case of DNA, does not know what most of it – and many began to call as “junk DNA”, assuming it had no purpose and just floated around while a minority did useful work.

Researchers were not very happy with that idea, and formed a group called ENCODE in 2003 to find what is the purpose of this DNA. Today, the group consists of 440 scientists from 32 laboratories around the world, announced that it discovered that plays a critical role in control of how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery is considered a scientific breakthrough and has a major impact on our understanding of genetics, and human health, since complex diseases seem to be caused by small changes in this part of DNA.

The “non-coding DNA” as less disparagingly called, is part of the DNA that are not for proteins with instructions. Its function, the researchers found, is to be part of a complex system which controls the genes by a system of more than four million “switches”, which control gene which is used in a cell and when to use, and determines, for example , if a cell needs to become part of the liver or in a neuron.

The massive discovery was published in six papers in the journal Nature, and over 24 papers in Genome Research and Genome Biology. Also the Journal of Biological Chemistry published six articles, and more Science article.

According to researcher Eric Lander of the Broad Institute, current research is like “Google Maps”, where you have details of the streets and places, while the human genome was published in 2003 as a photo of the Earth from space, where can see the big picture, but not the details, according to what he told the New York Times .

In one of the papers, researchers related these “switches” of genes to a number of human diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, cancer and others. Small changes in human DNA sequences can generate these diseases, but those changes are in the “junk” DNA, and not in the genes themselves.

The information could be very important to find treatments.

Link: Far from ‘Junk’ DNA Proves dark matter crucial to health (NYTimes)

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