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Study shines new light on genome

Scientists have been forced to rethink how the human genome The human genome is the genome of Homo sapiens, which is composed of 24 distinct pairs of chromosomes (22 autosomal + X + Y) with a total of approximately 3 billion DNA base pairs containing an estimated 20,000–25,000 genes.  turns a single cell into a complex living being following the most intensive study of our genetic code ever undertaken.

The research reveals that genes make up only a tiny fraction of the role played by the 3bn letters that constitute the entirety of the human genome.

Large swaths of the genome, previously dismissed as "junk DNA junk DNA
n.
DNA that does not code for proteins or their regulation but is thought to be involved in the evolution of new genes and in gene repair, and constitutes approximately 95 percent of the human genome.
" because it was thought to serve no practical purpose, have been found to be highly active inside the cells in our bodies. Other sequences of genetic code are thought to be "on standby", awaiting a time further down the evolutionary path when they will be beneficial to human beings.

The scientists claim the findings will have a dramatic impact on their ability to pinpoint how genetic defects trigger diseases. Instead of simply looking for Looking for

In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with.
 mutations in individual genes, it is certain that defects in other parts of the genome will contribute to complex conditions, among them diabetes and coronary heart disease coronary heart disease: see coronary artery disease.
coronary heart disease
 or ischemic heart disease

Progressive reduction of blood supply to the heart muscle due to narrowing or blocking of a coronary artery (see atherosclerosis).
.

The results, published in Nature today, are the culmination of a $42m, five-year project called ENCODE (ENCyclopaedia encyclopaedia

Reference work that contains information on all branches of knowledge or that treats a particular branch of knowledge comprehensively. It is self-contained and explains subjects in greater detail than a dictionary.
 Of DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
DNA
 or deoxyribonucleic acid

One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes.
 Elements) involving 80 different scientific teams in 11 countries.

The project set out to examine the human genome in unprecedented detail, to work out every different way in which the genetic building blocks, represented by the letters G, T, A and C, work within the body.

The scientists found that beyond genes lay a multitude of other jobs being done by sequences of DNA. Much of the genetic material is transcribed into molecules that relay information from the genome to the biological machinery of our cells.

"If you think of the letters that make up the human genome as the alphabet, then you can think of genes as the verbs. With this project we're identifying all of the other grammatical elements and the syntax of the language we need to read the genetic code completely," said Manolis Dermitzakis, a scientist on the ENCODE project at the Wellcome Trust The Wellcome Trust is a United Kingdom-based charity established in 1936 to administer the fortune of the American-born pharmaceutical magnate Sir Henry Wellcome. Its income was derived from what was originally called Burroughs Wellcome & Co, later renamed in the UK as the  Sanger Institute The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (formerly the Sanger Centre) is a genome research centre in Cambridgeshire, England. It was set up in 1992 by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council, the purpose of which is stated on their website ([1] as "to further our  in Cambridge.

The findings highlighted how scientists had become so blinded by the importance of genes that the role of other parts of the genome had largely gone unappreciated, he said.

In the pilot study, the researchers focused on 1% of the human genome, or 3bn letters, which were chosen to represent the entire human genetic code. They aim to examine the rest of the genome over the next four years, streamlining the process to complete it for less than $100m.

By understanding how every letter of the human genome functions in the body, scientists believe they will be able to learn how complex diseases are caused by genetic glitches that build up throughout the genome.
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Author:guardian.co.uk
Publication:guardian.co.uk
Date:Jun 14, 2007
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