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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 bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @04:45PM (#41239185) Homepage Journal

    Just happened to hear an NPR interview on the way back to the office. The researcher described most of the 80% as regulating the expression of the protein codes. Brace yourself Slashdot: he called it the 'operating system'.

  • Re:Junk DNA? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by afidel (530433) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:14PM (#41239549)

    Uh, it was called into question over a decade ago. No scientific paper or journal article ever referred to it as "junk" DNA, it was called non-encoding regions and it was understood fairly early on that at least some of the area held a regulatory function. What wasn't realized until the human genome project concluded was just how little of the genome was encoding and how massively important the regulatory regions were (the human body creates a heck of a lot more than 10,000 different proteins so the regulatory regions must be more than simple on/off switches but must also have the ability to affect structural changes in the protein encoding sequence),

  • by anubi (640541) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:17PM (#41239571) Journal
    The sky will be the limit.

    The understanding of how DNA works, ( and correspondingly, how to hack it ) is the ultimate reverse-engineering accomplishment.

    Life is a textbook, full of worked examples. We are at the stage we realize there is an alphabet, the letters mean something, and have the definition of a few words. Kindergarten stuff.

    If we play our cards right, and don't spend all our resources fighting amongst ourselves, the future is incredibly bright. We have worked examples of damn near everything we need... photosynthesis ( solar powered CO2 sequestration and energy storage ) for starters. We have bioluminescence, electric eels, and all sorts of sensor examples.

    I figure we have been given a huge shipment of arduinos with all sorts of accessories, and we have now figured out how to make the light blink.

    We don't know how its wired yet, how the compiler works, and just now figuring out some of what makes the hardware work.

    If our society will value knowledge above greed and accounting, if there is anything limiting our potential, I have yet to see it. However if greed and accounting is all we know, we will soon run into all sorts of limits, imposed only by our inability to adapt. First of these will be exhaustion of the earth's fossil fuels, followed by food and water famines. We will be like the chick that hatched, but failed to scratch, find food, and thrive, living off the energy stored in the egg - until it is depleted.

    The earth is our egg.

    I value highly the knowledge our species acquires. It is our survival.
  • by tlhIngan (30335) <<slashdot> <at> <worf.net>> on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:17PM (#41239581)

    Yep, and the OS can get reprogrammed by viruses.

    It's also got fairly good licensing terms - I mean the OS can be replicated (it is billions of times - once for ever cell), and the OS can make copies of itself (mitosis), and even end up altering itself through random changes (mutations).

    A virus only infects one cell to duplicate itself - all the other uninfected cells have their own copy. The antivirus system basically works by killing infected cells.

    So all in all, an interesting OS - security worse than Windows (i.e., none at all - just random strings of genetic code can alter the OS - you don't neve need root! just physical access!), yet it really works by sheer number of copies.

  • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Wednesday September 05, 2012 @05:28PM (#41239721)
    Furthermore a long time ago some hackers [wikipedia.org] got in and mucked about committing changes the the trunk. They didn't seem to break anything vital so it was just left alone and we hope it doesn't bite us in the ass before we retire.

    Oh yeah, btw, we use a distributed revision control with about 7 Billion [wikipedia.org] branches and no one true trunk (although a lot of people claim otherwise). There's a lot of wanton merging (giggity) and branching, and it seems like every time that happens there's a chance that the revision control just fucks something up [wikipedia.org] and makes a mess of it all.

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