Monday, September 24, 2007

Genes no longer the center of the genome universe

At The Boston Globe (might have to use BugMeNot):
For half a century, the core concept in biology has been that every cell carries within its nucleus a full set of DNA, including genes. Each gene, in turn, holds coded instructions for assembling a particular protein, the stuff that keeps organisms chugging along.

As a result, genes were assigned an almost divine role in biological "dogma," thought to govern not only such physical characteristics as eye color or hair texture, but even much more complicated characteristics, such as behavior or psychology. Genes were assigned blame for illness. Genes were credited for robust health. Genes were said to be the source of the mutations that underlay evolution.

But the picture now emerging is more complicated, one in which illness, health, and evolutionary change appear to be the work of almost fantastical coordination between genes and swaths of DNA previously written off as junk.
"The picture that's emerging" of how living cells actually operate and evolve "is so immensely more complicated than anyone imagined, it's almost depressing," Rigoutsos said.
The more we know, the more we don't know. A pattern that will continue, I daresay, until we finally realize that what we don't know is indeed infinite.

As usual, read the whole thing.

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