Friday, September 7, 2012

Trashing Junk DNA

You have seen the headlines:
  • Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From 'Junk,' Play Crucial Role (New York Times)
  • 'Junk DNA' Concept Debunked by New Analysis of Human Genome (Washington Post)
  • 'Junk DNA' Debunked (Wall Street Journal)
  • Breakthrough Study Overturns Theory of 'Junk DNA' in Genome (Guardian)
Or maybe you heard MSNBC report that the data from ENCODE "shows us living beyond our genes" --whatever that means -- or listened to CBC intone that "'Junk DNA has a purpose" -- sounds divine -- or saw the Independent's mishugina announcement that "Scientists Debunk 'Junk DNA' Theory to Reveal Vast Majority of Human Genes Perform a Vital Function!" -- like we did not know that genes were functional and important?

The level of hype here is phenomenal. (Some useful clarification can be found at the Nature News blog.) In the next few days, I hope to post some quick thoughts on what the ENCODE figures (like 80%) being bandied about for the "functional" or "biologically active" fraction of the human genome mean for the loci used in forensic DNA identification.

(If any readers have insights to share, post a comment or send me an email at kaye at, and I'll try to use them. I am still educating myself about some of the details of gene regulation and can use any help I can get.)

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