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Junk DNA: What's it For?

Scientists have discovered a lot of DNA that we don't seem to have a use for, so they've called it "junk" DNA. But now they may be discovering that it's not just junk, after all. They now think that at least 80% percent of it is active and needed.

The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that scientists now realize play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. In fact, complex diseases--from diabetes to depression--may be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches. It could explain why one person gets a disease, when another (who has been exposed to the same environmental contaminants) doesn't. This even happens to identical twins!

This genetic vulnerability is what makes it so hard to trace disease epidemics these days.

In the September 6the edition of the New York Times, Gina Kolata quotes researcher Eric Lander as saying, "It's Google Maps," like "getting a picture of Earth from space. It doesn't tell you where the roads are, it doesn't tell you what traffic is like at what time of the day, it doesn't tell you where the good restaurants are, or the hospitals or the cities or the rivers." But it DOES tell you things.

Kolata quotes researcher Ewan Birney as saying that human DNA is "a lot more active than we expected, and there are a lot more things happening than we expected." These gene switches may "turn on" a wide range of human diseases, including multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and celiac disease. Minor changes in human DNA sequences increase the risk that a person will get those diseases, but those changes are located in the "junk."

Kolata quotes researcher Michael Snyder as saying, "Most of the changes that affect disease don't lie in the genes themselves; they lie in the switches."

She quotes researcher Mark Gerstein as saying, "It is like opening a wiring closet and seeing a hairball of wires. We tried to unravel this hairball and make it interpretable."

At this website, we've taken on "unraveling the hairballs" of edge news as our JOB--especially when it comes to UFOs. And here's how we do it: We invite "contactees" to tell our subscribers what happened to them IN THEIR OWN WORDS.



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