Genetics Breakthrough Changes Thinking About DNA

By Chris K, Thursday, October 18, 2012

Most people are familiar with the saying, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” That old adage might just be the best way to summarize new findings within the human genome. What scientists have for years believed was simply “junk” within the 3-billion character genome code has turned out to play a crucial role in how a person lives, developers, and experiences their own life. The discovery opens up the door to a new century characterized by better treatments for common illnesses and diseases, and will likely play a major role in 21st century medicine.

From Junk to Treasure: Why 80 Percent of the Human Genome Has Regained its Value

DNA Model Helix Genetics Breakthrough Changes Thinking About DNAWhen the human genome was first unraveled just over a decade ago, scientists concluded that just 2 percent of what they uncovered was of any value. It was believed that only 2 percent of the 3 billion characters contained within the human genome had anything to do with a person’s physical features, gender, orientation, and predisposition to many diseases. Since then, that two percent has been extensively studied while scientists have, again, and again, referred to more than 80% of the genome as “junk” that has no bearing on the human experience.

A recent discovery, however, has those scientists walking back their belief that the human genome was primarily composed of “junk.” It is now believed that the vast majority of the 3 billion characters contained within the human genome are actually there to function as switches. Those switches can be flipped on or off and that distinction will determine whether or not someone is predisposed to a genetic disease or another condition that might negatively impact their life. Far from junk, this 80% of the human genome is now among the most important areas of study for those scientists looking to cure, or prevent, common diseases that can limit and reduce human life expectancy.

A Human Genome Project for the 21st Century

While the 20th century was used primarily to decode and unravel the human genome itself, the 21st century looks to be the time when scientists dig in and discover what each “switch” contained in the genome controls. Each of the 3 billion characters contained within the genome will now be studied extensively, with its effects on human disease and discomfort studied extensively by geneticists who are looking to cure and prevent things from cancer to diabetes and beyond.

This is even more important when scientists discuss where most human diseases originate. The 2 percent of the human genome that has been tied to human DNA is responsible largely for causing just a few rare diseases in humans. Many of the more common diseases suffered by people around the world are believed to be controlled by the 80% of the human genome that is dedicated to the “switches.” This opens the door to solving a number of the most common and most deadly diseases faced by people around the world.

An Entirely New Era of Scientific Research Begins

With the backing of the National Institutes of Health, an entirely new era in genetic research is beginning to unfold to study the purpose of each switch contained within the human genome itself. The NIH has been the driving force behind earlier human genome research and discoveries, and looks to continue playing a key role. Even something like dna diagnostics will become easier to perform.

The good news is that, during the present century, scientists will move closer to understanding how a human is created, designed, and cured of many major diseases. It represents a major leap forward for the human race as a whole, and represents an exciting new opportunity to ensure a greater quality of life worldwide.

Image credit: settme3

 Genetics Breakthrough Changes Thinking About DNA

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