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98.5% of our DNA is ‘junk’: But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t play a key role in disease, evolution

| | August 21, 2019

Would you purchase a book with over 98 percent of the text written in gibberish? Biology has no business in the book industry, yet it still writes a pretty fascinating guidebook: DNA. Our genetic manual holds the instructions for the proteins that make up and power our bodies. But less than 2 percent of our DNA actually codes for them.

The rest — 98.5 percent of DNA sequences — is so-called “junk DNA” that scientists long thought useless. 

But new research is revealing that the “junky” parts of our genome might play important roles nonetheless.

Scientists have now linked various non-coding sequences to various biological processes and even human diseases. For instance, researchers believe these sequences are behind the development of the uterus and also of our opposable thumbs. A study published in Annals of Oncology last year showed that a non-coding DNA segment acts like a volume knob for gene expression, ultimately influencing the development of breast and prostate cancer. And a study in Nature Genetics this year found mutations outside of gene-coding regions can cause autism.

Exploring the role of non-coding sequences is now an area of intense research.

Read full, original post: Our Cells Are Filled With ‘Junk DNA’ — Here’s Why We Need It

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