April 27, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Non-Coding DNA Has “Far More Complexity Than Was Imagined”

The concept of “junk DNA” appears to be fading away.  “A mathematical analysis of the human genome suggests that so-called ‘junk DNA’ might not be so useless after all,” reported Paul Rincon for the BBC News.  The photo caption reads, “The genome may possess far more complexity than was imagined.”
    A team from IBM found motifs involved in regulation of the genes.  These showed a relationship between functional areas of the genes and those not previously considered functional.  Certain structures, called pyknons, are apparently involved as RNA silencers that turn genes off or on in complex ways, even after a gene has been translated.  More detail and an illustration is provided at the IBM Research press release.
    “These regions may indeed contain structure that we haven’t seen before,” said Dr. Isodore Rigoutsos.“  “If indeed one of them corresponds to an active element that is involved in some kind of process, then the extent of cell process regulation that actually takes place is way beyond anything we have seen in the last decade.”  The paper by Rigoutsos et al. was published in PNAS.1


1Rigoutsos et al., “Short blocks from the noncoding parts of the human genome have instances within nearly all known genes and relate to biological processes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print April 24, 2006, 10.1073/pnas.0601688103.

Geneticists would have been way ahead of the curve if they had listened to IBM instead of Dawkins.  “The average lab does not have the resources to prove or disprove this, so it will need a lot of effort by lots of people,” said Dr. Rigoutsos.  Not only are Information Technology (IT) people better suited to understanding codes, they might even benefit from imitating nature’s programming tricks.  Life’s code works, doesn’t it?  Look at a bird, or a butterfly, or a human baby.  Most of the time the right parts come out in the right places, generation after generation, for thousands of years.
    Dr. Stephen Meyer used this point to good effect in a debate with evolutionist Peter Ward in Seattle yesterday.  “Meyer countered that neo-Darwinian evolution had been heuristically unfruitful in leading science to think that non-encoding DNA was simply ‘junk’,” an eyewitness said.  “Meyer insisted that design assumptions more readily led one to conclude there was purpose in such ‘junk DNA.’”  Read all about this debate on Evolution News.

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