THE first concerted effort to understand the inner workings of the DNA molecule is overturning a host of long-held assumptions about the nature of genes and their role in human health and evolution. The new perspective reveals DNA to be a dauntingly complex operating system (GOS*) that processes many more kinds of information than previously appreciated.
"There now appear to be thousands of places in the genome that were long thought to be useless or meaningless, but which we now see to have a functional role," ENCODE researcher Thomas Tullius of Boston University told the Boston Globe. "But we don't really understand what that role is."
"Most of the time, the human genome is operating on the 'first and second floor,' with 5 percent of the genome doing what needs to be done on a daily basis," Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute said at the news conference. "But over evolutionary time, a much larger part of the genome, the stuff in the attic, becomes important. It's waiting for natural selection to call for it."
Storyunteller: ENCODE researcher Thomas Tullius of Boston University
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* Inserted (God's operating System)
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