DNA

'Junk' DNA found to play crucial role in health or disease

Thursday, September 13, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: junk DNA, gene switches, health

eTrust Pro Certified

Most Viewed Articles
Popular on Facebook
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 now clearly a government cover-up: All evidence contradicts official story
White House admits staging fake vaccination operation to gather DNA from the public
EXCLUSIVE: Natural News tests flu vaccine for heavy metals, finds 25,000 times higher mercury level than EPA limit for water
Irrefutable proof we are all being sprayed with poison: 571 tons of toxic lead 'chemtrailed' into America's skies every year
Truvia sweetener a powerful pesticide; scientists shocked as fruit flies die in less than a week from eating GMO-derived erythritol
Russia taking McDonald's to court, threatens countrywide shutdown
Why does the CDC own a patent on Ebola 'invention?'
Senator who attacked Doctor Oz over dietary supplements received over $146,000 in campaign contributions from Big Pharma mega-retailer and Monsanto
Global warming data FAKED by government to fit climate change fictions
HOAX confirmed: Michelle Obama 'GMOs for children' campaign a parody of modern agricultural politics
Oregon man serving prison sentence for collecting rainwater on his own property
U.S. treating meat with ammonia, bleach and antibiotics to kill the '24-hour sickness'
Ebola outbreak may already be uncontrollable; Monsanto invests in Ebola treatment drug company as pandemic spreads
Ben and Jerry's switches to non-GMO, Fair Trade ice cream ingredients
Diet soda, aspartame linked to premature deaths in women
Elliot Rodger, like nearly all young killers, was taking psychiatric drugs (Xanax)
Right to farm being stripped from Americans: Michigan to criminalize small family farms with chickens, goats, honey bees and more
Monsanto's seed imperialism halted in Canada thanks to massive protests
Delicious
(NaturalNews) Human biology is a mysterious thing, which is why perplexing diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and psychiatric disorders are so hard to predict and, as is often the case, to treat as well. Another complexity involves understanding how and why one individual might contract a debilitating or deadly disease like depression or cancer, while an identical twin remains the epitome of health.

Now, though, scientists have identified a clue that could eventually help them figure out such riddles. They know that the human genome is filled with at least four million gene switches that inhabit bits of DNA which were at one time written off as "junk" but have turned out to play crucial roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave, The New York Times reported.

"The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches," said the paper.

Junk in DNA contains a 'complex system'

The findings, which are the result of a large federal project that involves 440 scientists from 32 labs around the world, will have an immediate impact on the understanding of how alterations in the non-gene portions of DNA actually contribute to the formation of human diseases. That in turn could lead to the development of new drugs aimed at treating those diseases. The discovery can also help explain how the environment affects risk, the paper said.

In the case of twins, researchers note, just small changes in environmental exposure can alter gene switches slightly, resulting in one twin getting a disease while the other does not.

As scientists dug deeper into the "junk" - described as parts of the DNA that are not actual genes that contain instructions for proteins - they found a complex system that controls genes in which at least 80 percent of the DNA is both active and needed. In all, the system of switches act much like dimmer switches for lights in that they control which genes are used in a cell and when they are used, in addition to determining whether a cell becomes a neuron or a liver cell.

"It's Google Maps," Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute, a joint research endeavor of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the Times.

By comparison, the project's predecessor, the Human Genome Project, which govern the entire sequence of human DNA, "was like getting a picture of Earth from space," said Lander.

"It doesn't tell you where the roads are, it doesn't tell you what traffic is like at what time of the day, it doesn't tell you where the good restaurants are, or the hospitals or the cities or the rivers," he added, according to the Times.

The new result "is a stunning resource," said Lander, who was not involved in the latest project but was a leader in the Human Genome Project. "My head explodes at the amount of data."

Researchers published their discoveries recently in a half-dozen papers in the journal Nature, as well in 24 papers in Genome Research and Genome Biology. Additionally, the Journal of Biological Chemistry is publishing six review articles, while Science has agreed to publish yet another article related to the findings, the Times said.

'A really big deal'

Human DNA is "a lot more active than we expected, and there are a lot more things happening than we expected," Ewan Birney of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute, a lead researcher on the project, told the paper in an interview.

In one of the papers for Nature, scientists tie the gene switches to a host of human diseases including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease, Crohn's disease - and to other physical traits such as height.

In large studies over the past 10 years, researchers have discovered that small changes in human DNA sequences boost the risk of a person contracting those diseases. But such changes were in the junk, now often called the dark matter - they were not gene changes - and the significance of them was not clear. The new data shows that many of those changes alter gene switches and are in turn very significant.

"Most of the changes that affect disease don't lie in the genes themselves; they lie in the switches," said Michael Snyder, a Stanford University researcher for the project, dubbed Encode, for Encyclopedia of DNA Elements.

That, adds Dr. Bradley Bernstein, an Encode researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, "is a really big deal."

"I don't think anyone predicted that would be the case," Bernstein added.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v489/n7414/full/489045a.html

http://www.genome.gov/10005107

Join over four million monthly readers. Your privacy is protected. Unsubscribe at any time.
comments powered by Disqus
Take Action: Support NaturalNews.com by linking back to this article from your website

Permalink to this article:

Embed article link: (copy HTML code below):

Reprinting this article:
Non-commercial use OK, cite NaturalNews.com with clickable link.

Follow Natural News on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest

Colloidal Silver

Advertise with NaturalNews...

Support NaturalNews Sponsors:

Advertise with NaturalNews...

GET SHOW DETAILS
+ a FREE GIFT

Sign up for the FREE Natural News Email Newsletter

Receive breaking news on GMOs, vaccines, fluoride, radiation protection, natural cures, food safety alerts and interviews with the world's top experts on natural health and more.

Join over 7 million monthly readers of NaturalNews.com, the internet's No. 1 natural health news site. (Source: Alexa.com)

Your email address *

Please enter the code you see above*

No Thanks

Already have it and love it!

Natural News supports and helps fund these organizations:

* Required. Once you click submit, we will send you an email asking you to confirm your free registration. Your privacy is assured and your information is kept confidential. You may unsubscribe at anytime.