News24

Junk DNA not junk, says expert

2011-03-10 14:35

Cape Town - The term junk DNA is outdated and was probably given out of naivety, a professor has said.

"The more we study it [non-coding DNA] the more we see signals that it has a functional role in either determining the shape or charge of the helix," Professor Raj Ramesar, director of the Medical Research Council's human genetics research unit, told News24.

The term junk DNA was coined by Susumu Ohno in 1972 and referred to sections of the genome that appeared to have no coding function and a large percentage of the genome is made of this kind of DNA.

The human genome is a long chain of DNA that determines everything about what a person inherits from his or her parents. It is stored on 23 pairs of chromosomes which occupies about three billion DNA base pairs.

"We were incredibly naïve and we're learning new things about it [non-coding DNA]; in fact, we don't even call it junk DNA anymore," said Ramesar on the sidelines of the Joint International Conference of African and Southern African Societies of Human Genetics at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday.

Unknown

About 97% of the function of genes is unknown despite a ten-year project to map the entire genome in the Human Genome Project which was compared to putting a man on the moon, because of its complexity.

Scientists have also mapped the entire genome of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in an effort to learn more about the DNA of Africans.

"The project involves the sequencing of named Africans to have their entire genome sequenced. With Desmond Tutu, we know his entire code - it's very unique," said Dr Vanessa Hayes of the J Craig Venter Institute in the US.

"Although it's been 10 years since the completion of the Human Genome Project, not much is known about the DNA of African people," she added.

Non-coding DNA may play a more vital role than what scientists have realised in the past.

"There are small RNA molecules (single-stranded simple form of DNA) that switch things on and off. As we learn more functions, we need to figure out what role they play," said Ramesar.


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Comments
  • Mayaziwe - 2011-03-10 16:42

    And the relevance of this story is.....?!??!? So we don't know anything about 97% of something. What was the writer trying to convey? We have learned nothing new here! Something was said in 1972...so what?! 364 words (excluding the title)wasted.

      Andrew - 2011-03-10 19:01

      Mayaziwe, if Professor Raj Ramesar were to study your DNA he might find that 97% of it is junk after all. You wear your ignorance like a badge of honor.

  • DrHomer - 2011-03-10 16:50

    test

      Mayaziwe - 2011-03-10 16:55

      Don't worry...it's working!

      Johan - 2011-03-11 07:11

      the ...ing123 did not come thru.

  • Mayaziwe - 2011-03-10 16:52

    Wait a minute....I've got it! This is a coded message to someone out there. It involves Desmond Tutu. Hmmm...very sinister.

      Danddt - 2011-03-10 17:22

      The implication of this has to do with the ongoing debate between Intelligent Design advocates vs Evolutionists. It is another in an exponentially growing arsenal of facts that has evolutionists looking more and more worried about their theory. Their theory is looking weker by the day..

      Danddt - 2011-03-10 17:22

      weaker

      Dan - 2012-02-08 23:22

      Danddt . You are 100% right !!! It is written in the Gospel of the flying spagethi monster( and bobby Henderson is his only prophet) that evolutionists are evil. They will pay for their evil deeds . They will cry when they reach hell and the beer is stale and the strippers have std's

  • Ano Nymous - 2011-03-10 17:13

    Prof Ramesar may have been naive -- most scientists knew "junk" DNA had a as yet undiscovered function. Also, the DNA helix charge is imparted by the phosphate on the backbone, not the nitrogen base sequence. Its been known for 20+ years that sequence effects helix shape. Prof. Ramesar should try and be correct and original when talking to the media...

  • Ano Nymous - 2011-03-10 17:18

    Prof Ramesar may have been naive -- most scientists knew "junk" DNA had a as yet undiscovered function. Also, the DNA helix charge is imparted by the phosphate on the backbone, not the nitrogen base sequence. Its been known for 20+ years that sequence effects helix shape. Prof. Ramesar should try and be correct and original when talking to the media...

  • Ano Nymous - 2011-03-10 17:37

    Prof Ramesar may have been naive -- most scientists knew "junk" DNA had an as yet undiscovered function. Also, the DNA helix charge is imparted by the phosphate on the backbone, not the nitrogen base sequence. Its been known for 20+ years that sequence effects helix shape. Prof. Ramesar should try and be correct and original when talking to the media...

  • Krush - 2011-03-10 18:01

    ..and then many still choose to believe in evolution...

      Danddt - 2011-03-10 18:44

      They may choose to yes. However, they can no longer claim that it is an intellectually superior position to hold (regardless of what the Julius Malema of the evolutionists, Richard Dawkins, might say.) I am willing to bet that a substantial number of atheist-evolutionists (If not all of them) believe it only because they WANT to. Because it frees them to fashion their own moral truths.

      CTScientist - 2011-03-10 22:50

      @ Danddt: "Because it frees them to fashion their own moral truths." You mean JUST like EVERY single other human being on the planet..? :P

      bmpdragon - 2011-03-12 01:40

      Danddt, please try not to be so arrogant and morally superior. Richard Dawkins was a Professor at Oxford University until his retirement. Oxford University is consistently ranked in the top ten universities of the world and to be a professor there is no small feat. He has published 10 books (most of which have become best-sellers) and numerous academic articles. He has received many awards and is the chairperson of the British Humanist Association (which advocates human rights and moral standards without religious intolerance). I suspect that he has a finer understanding of history and philosophy of religion (particularly Christianity) than the average theist, and a rather thorough comprehension of neo-Darwinian evolution. I wonder Danddt, how many college/university degrees have you worked to get? How many books have you written (or read)? Have you come up with paradigm shaking ideas? How many lectures have you given throughout the world? Do you lead a world charity? While, you may not like Dawkins or agree with him, the simple fact is, he probably knows more and has achieved more than you (and Julius Malema).

  • Truth etc. - 2011-03-10 18:56

    Yes, with every discovery it becomes clearer that life is more complex than previously thought. With every discovery it becomes clearer that the idea that life arose by chance and evolved by random mutation is impossible. It takes incredible faith and imagination to still believe in evolution - but then the evolution belief has turned into a religion long ago.

      Danddt - 2011-03-10 20:03

      Indeed Truth etc. You are correct. There has been a Truth decay. Sorry I couldn't resist. lol

  • ungodlike - 2011-03-10 20:18

    Yes fellow creationists, intelligent design theorists we stand on the ROCK SOLID WORD OF "GOD" aka BIBLE as written by MAN yes guys GOD knows what the other 97% percent of our DNA is for, let us pray to GOD for answers.

      Danddt - 2011-03-10 20:25

      Wow. What a persuasive argument! You should go into politics. You talents are clearly wasted here.

  • Arthur Campbell - 2011-04-20 09:52

    The so-called "junk" DNA cannot be proved scientifically as it is not comprised of matter. Scientists should get out of their heads and start looking at it from a quantum perspective! DNA is extremely intelligent, much more than the biological functions it performs and it would require a scientist who is liberally-minded enough to look beyond science and discover the secrets on a more multidimensional level. We have yet to discover WHO this person will be, but when it happens, it will open many, many doors to the mysteries of the functions and inherent purpose of DNA!

      coenraad.vanderwesthuizen.3 - 2012-10-11 14:00

      Are you kidding? "The so-called "junk" DNA cannot be proved scientifically as it is not comprised of matter" Cite your evidence...

  • coenraad.vanderwesthuizen.3 - 2012-10-11 13:51

    Creationism and it's stepchild, Intelligent Design has been debunked so many times that I am surprised it isn't a circus side-show yet. On the contrary, there is more than enough evidence for evolution.

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