More than 400 scientists from 32 research institutes around the world have published the most comprehensive analysis of the human genome to date in an epic series of 30 papers published in Nature, Science and other journals.  ENCODE - the Encyclopedia of DNA elements - aims to provide a comprehensive database of all the functional DNA elements within our genome, including genes, regulatory switches and much more.

The researchers analysed nearly 150 different types of human cells, and concluded that at least 80 per cent of the whole genome is functional in some way - although less than 2 per cent actually codes for proteins - finally laying to rest the idea that most of the genome is "junk DNA".  The finding is still controversial however, as some scientists think that much of this is still genetic clutter, accumulated during evolution.

As well as detailing functional elements in the genome, ENCODE also acts as a massive catalogue of gene faults and variations that may be involved in a wide range of diseases, providing fresh leads for researchers around the world.


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