Revolutionary genetics research shows RNA may rule our genome.

Scientists have recently discovered thousands of active RNA molecules that can control the human body.

Thomas Gingeras did not intend to upend basic ideas about how the human body works. In 2012 the geneticist. Now at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York State, he was one of a few hundred colleagues who were simply trying to put together a compendium of human DNA functions. Their ­project was called ENCODE, for the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements. About a decade earlier almost all of the three billion DNA building blocks that make up the human genome had been identified. Gingeras and the other ENCODE scientists were trying to figure out what all that DNA did.

The assumption made by most biologists at that time was that most of it didn’t do much. The early genome mappers estimated that perhaps 1 to 2 percent of our DNA consisted of genes as classically defined: stretches of the genome that coded for proteins, the workhorses of the human body that carry oxygen to different organs, build heart muscles and brain cells, and do just about everything else people need to stay alive.
Making proteins was thought to be the genome’s primary job.Genes do this by putting manufacturing instructions into messenger molecules called mRNAs, which in turn travel to a cell’s protein-making machinery. As for the rest of the genome’s DNA? The “protein-­cod­ing regions,” Gingeras says, were supposedly “surrounded by oceans of biologically functionless se­­quences.” In other words, it was mostly junk DNA.

Revolutionary genetics research shows RNA may rule our genome byPhilip Ball
Scientific American Jun 2024 – Read more