Thursday, 14 June 2007

De-Junking DNA

It is becoming more and more apparent that so-called "junk DNA" is not junk after all.

Like so-called vestigial organs, some atheists have claimed that large portions of the human DNA is an evolutionary artefact that serves no present-day purpose.

According to a recent BBC News article, new research, part of the Encyclopaedia of DNA Elements (Encode) study, suggests "genes, so called junk DNA and other elements, together weave an intricate control network".

The researchers focussed on 1% of the human genome sequence, carrying out 80 different types of experiments that generated more than 600 million data points.

The surprising results, explained Tim Hubbard from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, "transform our view of the genome fabric".

Previously, genome activity was thought of in terms of the 22,000 genes that make proteins - the functional building blocks in our cells - along with patches of DNA that control, or regulate, the genes.

The other 97% or so of the genome was said to be made up of "junk" DNA - so called because it had no known biological function.

However, junk DNA may soon need a new moniker.

Dr Hubbard said: "We are now seeing the majority of the rest of the genome is active to some extent."

He explained that the study had found junk DNA was being transcribed, or copied, into RNA - an active molecule that relays information from DNA to the cellular machinery.

He added: This is a remarkable finding, since most prior research suggested only a fraction of the genome was transcribed."

Once again we see evidence that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made". I don't hold out much hope, though, that mainstream biologists will at last start to acknowledge the hand of the superb designer in what they are studying.