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Biotech Science

Function of 80% of the Human Genome Charted 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the scientists-are-busy-busy-people dept.
ananyo writes "In what is likely to be a historic moment in science, ENCODE, the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, has published 30 papers in Nature, Genome Research and Genome Biology today, assigning some sort of function to roughly 80% of the genome, including more than 70,000 'promoter' regions — the sites, just upstream of genes, where proteins bind to control gene expression — and nearly 400,000 'enhancer' regions that regulate expression of distant genes. The project was designed to pick up where the Human Genome Project left off. Although that massive effort revealed the blueprint of human biology, it quickly became clear that the instruction manual for reading the blueprint was sketchy at best. Researchers could identify in its 3 billion letters many of the regions that code for proteins, but those make up little more than 1% of the genome, contained in around 20,000 genes. ENCODE, which started in 2003, aims to catalog the 'functional' DNA sequences between genes, learn when and in which cells they are active and trace their effects on how the genome is packaged, regulated and read. Nature has set up an ENCODE site with an explorer, that groups the papers by topic, and collects all the papers, which are available free."
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Function of 80% of the Human Genome Charted

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  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @04:49PM (#41239221)
    Wait for the lawsuits when they come across a gene some company holds a patent for. They "invented" it you know.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @04:59PM (#41239343) Homepage Journal

    Yep, and the OS can get reprogrammed by viruses.

    Various fields borrow terminology from each other. Not that big a deal. My toaster has a "cancel" button. An old-fashioned "eject" would make more sense to me, but I guess mechanical terminology is less familiar to most people.

  • Re:Junk DNA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by robotkid (681905) <alanc2052NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:26PM (#41239693)

    Am I misinterpreting this, or is the usual belief that many genes are obsolete sequences that have no current function being called into question?

    I don't think any serious molecular biologist ever thought the majority of DNA had no function, just as no neuroscientist ever believed that we only use 10% of our brain, but that's precisely the sort of sound bite that, when uttered in a press release somewhere, echos around the public consciousness forever and never dies because it provides a conveniently sciency premise for the next batch of rebooted superhero origin stories. The distinction is that before this study, we knew non-coding DNA was involved in regulation but not to what extent; i.e. there were plenty of specific anecdotal findings but nothing this systematic and large scale.

    As for the significance of this sort of work, yes, it exactly like release day for a major software package, it's an anticipatory excitement and not a "we finally found the Higgs Boson after decades of searching" type of achievement. Molecular biologists and geneticists everywhere can now do a simple web search see how this affects the system they are working on without needing to perpetually beg the labs that possess the specialized high-throughput instrumentation to do a one-off experiment just for their favorite gene. . .

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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