Truth or fiction… regulatory DNA

Wednesday September 5th, 2012 – Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From ‘Junk,’ Play Crucial Role

“The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave.”

…”As scientists delved into the “junk” – parts of the DNA that are not actual genes containing instructions for proteins – they discovered a complex system that controls genes. At least 80 percent of this DNA is active and needed. The result of the work is an annotated road map of much of this DNA, noting what it is doing and how. It includes the system of switches that, acting like dimmer switches for lights, control which genes are used in a cell and when they are used, and determine, for instance, whether a cell becomes a liver cell or a neuron.”


Friday May 6th, 2033

“Okay, you were naïve and optimistic. I get that. But this was decades ago. Most of the research was focused on single nucleotide traits, which account for, what, a few percent of intelligence?”

“Around 4 percent, out of roughly 50 percent regarded as genetic,” Cate said.

“So the other 45 percent emerges from the complexity of lots of different genes switching on and off as neurons are created, migrate all over the brain, establish pathways and are pruned, and all this not only within the womb but through the organism’s …” Ayden’s voice trailed off for a moment.

“Through my lifetime. Which means the protein coding sequences wouldn’t have been enough. You would’ve have had to include regulatory code as well. Genes for RNA interference.”

“Yes,” Cate said. “In fact, most of our work focused on regulatory processes. Smart people and dumb people are made up of the same protein soup. Actually, it was even worse than that. In the end, we had to look beyond DNA.”

…read more in INTERVENTION by WRR Munro

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