'Junk' DNA could fight disease

Scientists have discovered that huge parts of our DNA - which were previously thought to have no obvious use - could in fact be essential in keeping life going. So-called 'junk' DNA contains millions of 'switches' which can turn genes on or off.

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What does the new DNA research show?

  • The genes that control the colour of your eyes, or your blood group, or anything else about you, make up only 2 per cent of the total.
  • Until recently large amounts of the human genetic code, or genome, were dismissed as "junk" - DNA sequences that had no function.
  • The findings show that around 80% of the genetic code is actively involved in keeping life going.

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DNA breakthrough could help cure diseases

We're going to find out ways of helping us understand disease, avoid disease, prevent disease and perhaps cure disease in different ways from this, but I'm not going to be able to put my finger on this disease or that disease right now.

It's clinical researchers and doctors who are going to be the people who I think will benefit from this. I'm a kind of servant to that community of researchers.

– Dr Ewan Birney, chief analysis co-ordinator on the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements project

Research scraps theory of 'junk' DNA

Scientists have discovered that huge parts of our DNA - which were previously thought to have no obvious use - could in fact be essential in controlling genetic diseases.

So-called 'junk' DNA contains millions of 'switches' which can turn genes on or off. That could include controlling genes which lead to a hereditary diseases such as breast cancer or cystic fibrosis.

A research project has effectively scrapped the concept of "junk" DNA.

In the future, scientists hope the findings will lead to a deeper understanding of numerous diseases and help them devise more effective diagnostic tools and treatments.

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