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‘Junk DNA’ Involved In Key Biochemical Processes

Incredible Genome Complexity

Vast sections of the human genome previously thought “useless junk DNA” are in fact involved in key biochemical processes, international team ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) found out.

By Kazi Stastna, CBC News, September 5, 2012:

The five-year Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, or ENCODE, project has attempted to catalogue the bulk of genetic material that does not fall under the category of protein-coding genes, the building blocks necessary for life that comprise only two per cent of the human genome.

The results of their efforts, published Wednesday in a series of papers in the journals Nature, Genome Research and Genome Biology, are being widely seen as the most significant contribution to understanding the human genome since the last sequence was completed in 2003. Read the full article here.

By Jeffrey Tomkins, Ph.D., Institute for Creation Research:

Both the evolutionists and creationists are abuzz with the latest results from 30 simultaneously published high-profile research papers, proclaiming that the human genome is irreducibly complex and intelligently designed. From an evolutionary perspective, this is yet another massive blow to the myth of “Junk DNA.” This evolutionary idea was exposed as a fraud in Jonathan Well’s recent book The Myth of Junk DNA. A large-scale international research effort, ENCODE (Encycl. of DNA Elements), began in 2003 as an expansion of the Human Genome project. The goal was to map and characterize the functionality of the entire human genome. Read the full article here.

From Wikipedia:

The human genome consists of just over 3 billion DNA base pairs. The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, sequenced the entire genome for one specific person. In the years since then, the genomes of many other individual people have been sequenced, partly under the auspices of the 1000 Genomes Project. Sequencing a genome, however, produces several gigabytes of raw data but does not directly say anything about how it works. The aim of the ENCODE project is to determine which parts of the DNA are biologically active, and make an initial assessment of their functions.

The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) is a public research consortium launched by the US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in September 2003. The goal is to find all functional elements in the human genome, one of the most critical projects by NHGRI after it completed the successful Human Genome Project. All data generated in the course of the project will be released rapidly into public databases.

On 5 September 2012, initial results of the project were released in a coordinated set of 30 papers published in the journals Nature (6 publications), Genome Biology (18 papers) and Genome Research (6 papers) These publications combine to show that approximately 20% of noncoding DNA in the human genome is functional while an additional 60% is transcribed with no known function. Much of this functional non-coding DNA is involved in the regulation of the expression of coding genes. Furthermore the expression of each coding gene is controlled by multiple regulatory sites located both near and distant from the gene. These results demonstrate that gene regulation is far more complex than previously believed.

Genome-wide association studies have determined that approximately 90% of single-letter differences in sequences that are associated with various diseases fall outside of protein coding regions. Previously it was not clear how these sequence differences could influence disease however new gene regulatory sites discovered by the ENCODE project in many cases provide an explanation.

Photo by www.icr.org, Institute for Creation Research

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