December 17, 2013
Scientists Find Hidden Code Inside DNA
|Scientists found that there is a second code hiding within DNA. The discovery of what are being called "duons" has major implications for how scientists and physicians interpret a patient’s genome and will open new doors to the diagnosis and treatment of disease.|
R esearchers have discovered a second code hiding within DNA. This second code contains information that changes how scientists read the instructions contained in DNA and interpret mutations to make sense of health and disease.
A research team led by Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine, made the discovery. The findings were reported in the journal Science.
The work is part of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project, also known as ENCODE. The National Human Genome Research Institute funded the multi-year, international effort. ENCODE aims to discover where and how the directions for biological functions are stored in the human genome.
“For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,” said Stamatoyannopoulos. “Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways.”
The genetic code uses a 64-letter alphabet called codons. The UW team discovered that some codons, which they called duons, can have two meanings, one related to protein sequence, and one related to gene control. These two meanings seem to have evolved in concert with each other. The gene control instructions appear to help stabilize certain beneficial features of proteins and how they are made.
The discovery of duons has major implications for how scientists and physicians interpret a patient’s genome and will open new doors to the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
“The fact that the genetic code can simultaneously write two kinds of information means that many DNA changes that appear to alter protein sequences may actually cause disease by disrupting gene control programs or even both mechanisms simultaneously,” said Stamatoyannopoulos.
The research (and the way it has been presented) has a critical response so far, but it could lead to new discoveries and treatments for disease.
SOURCE University of Washington
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Topics - codons , DNA , duons , ENCODE , Genetic code , genomics , John Stamatoyannopoulos , medicine , National Human Genome Research Institute , University of Washington