In a blizzard of more than 30 scientific papers published today in multiple basic scientific journals, an international research collaboration has flung open the door of the “wiring closet” of human cells–exposing at least four million gene switches that can both flick our genes on and off, and, like an electric outlet dimmer, work together in minute adjustments to turn genes up or down.
Scientists had originally assumed that only 3% of DNA was active in directing cell functions through the genes, with the other 97% of the human genome nicknamed “junk DNA” or DNA “dark matter.”
“We now know that this conclusion was wrong,” said Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D. , director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), a part of the National Institutes of Health.
Understanding the other 97% of DNA will help scientists understand how both genetics and environmental exposures can cause diseases—from lupus to heart disease to cancer—to appear, even in one identical twin but not the other. Read the rest of this entry »