Science Questions

Does junk DNA have a purpose?

Sun, 29th Apr 2007

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Migrating Genes, Surnames and Y Chromosomes


Geoff Kisch asked:

I know traditionally its thought that most of the sequences in our DNA is dead space (Junk DNA), but do they have a function?


It now seems that some of the ‘Junk’ is structural, helping to maintain of genes and chromosomes, and that some if it is very important for controlling how our genes work. There seem to be ‘messages’ coming from what was previously thought to be junk which help to control genes, turn them on and off and operate feedback cycles.

There is some evidence that micro-RNA copied from ‘junk’ DNA may be essential in out immune system, and ‘junk’ DNA is now being studied for its effects in cancer.

This is a quite a new field of research, so watch this space!


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