Genome is Not Junk

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Genome is not junk according to results of a massive project named ENCODE reported in ABC News in Science, BBC News, ScienceNOW, Biology News Net and ScienceDaily 5 September 2012. The ENCODE project, or Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, is a detailed analysis of the human genome conducted by hundreds of scientists working in 32 institutions, who carried out biochemical tests, sequencing studies and computer analyses on 147 types of human cells. When the human genome was first sequenced at the turn of the century, scientists were surprised to find only around 21,000 protein coding genes, occupying less than 3% of the total number of DNA letters in the genome. As proteins make up the structure of molecules and determine function in cells, the rest of the genome was assumed to be non-functional, and was labelled “Junk DNA”. However, as research continued through the decade, scientists found that some parts of the “junk” coded for RNA molecules that were used to switch on and off the activity of the genes or determine the production of proteins.

The ENCODE project has confirmed the low number of protein coding genes, finding 20,687 of them. However, they found that about 80 percent of the genome is provable not useless, but biochemically active. The remainder may be a graveyard of dead genes known as pseudogenes, although there are indications that some of these may also have a function. They also found that genes can overlap and have multiple beginnings and ends.

In fact, most of the genome has been found to be an enormous control panel that codes for biochemical switches that regulate the activity of protein coding genes, or act as attachment sites for proteins that control gene activity. Ewan Birney of the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute, lead analysis coordinator for ENCODE, commented: “Our genome is simply alive with switches: millions of places that determine whether a gene is switched on or off”. Nature introduced the project on its website with the statement: “Far from being junk, the vast majority of our DNA participates in at least one biochemical event in at least one cell type, according to the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project”. Ewan Birney told the BBC: “The term junk DNA must now be junked. It’s clear from this research that a far bigger part of the genome is biologically active than was previously thought”.

ABC, BBC, Biology News Net, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: The concept of Junk DNA came from the evolutionary assumption that the human genome arrived at its current state as a result of millions of years of naturalistic chance random processes, and therefore the parts of it that did not have any obvious function must be useless by-products of this trial-and-error process. Fortunately human curiosity has prevailed and we are learning more and more amazing things about the way genomes work. However, discoveries made since the first draft of the human genome was published, such as the ENCODE project, have been made in spite of evolutionary theory, not because of it. The more we learn about how genomes work the more evidence we find for creative design. Even if the remaining 20 percent of the genome that does not seem to be biochemically active does turn out to be a graveyard of dead genes, that will be a sad reminder that the only changes we see to the genome in real time are loss of function or devolution and therefore are further evidence for the Biblical history of the world, i.e. Creative Design followed by Naturalistic Degeneration. However, as the ENCODE researchers suggest, there is evidence that so called “pseudogenes” have a function, and therefore they should be investigated before being declare dead. See our previous report “Baffled Molecular Biologists”.

When the human genome was first presented to the world in 2000 AD, Creation Research was asked about Junk DNA. We replied: “Junk DNA is defined as DNA without genetic meaning. We have not identified a function for most of the DNA in the human genome but this does not mean it is junk. The problem for junk DNA proponents is the same as it was for vestigial organs (i.e. appendix). The fact that we don’t know the function of something, be it a body organ or a piece of DNA, is an indication of our ignorance, not our origin. If we don’t know the function of something the true scientific approach is to do more research and find out what it does”. Since we wrote that, all discoveries made about the genome have far exceeded our expectations, and will no doubt continue to do so. However, the Biblical model of Creation followed by Degeneration is a much better explanation for the discoveries already made, and we predict the same will be true for all future discoveries. As they say in Tennessee where this editor is today; “God didn’t do no junk!” (Ref. prediction, genetics, genomics)

For more information see our article on Vestigial Organs. PDF here.

Evidence News 12 September 2012

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