Newsmaker: Dekker, Weng talk to Globe about junk DNA

By Jim Fessenden

UMass Medical School Communications

September 06, 2012

Job Dekker, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and co-director of the Program in Systems Biology, and Zhiping Weng, PhD, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and director of the Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology talked to the Boston Globe, about yesterday’s announcement by the ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project that the majority of the human genome isn’t junk after all. A massive consortium of 440 scientists published findings in a set of 30 papers in three academic journals showing that 80 percent of the human genome—the majority of which was once considered genetic “junk”—performs fundamental biological functions that control when and how genes activated.

“When the genome was published, people had all kinds of speculations about how many genes there are in the human genome—the number thrown around was 100,000 genes,” Weng told Carolyn Johnson of the Boston Globe. “When it became clear it was 25 to 30,000 genes, a lot of people are very upset, and why? Because the fly has 20,000 genes, the worm has 20,000 genes, and are we just bigger? What exactly makes us us? It’s how our genes are regulated.”

Read the entire story: Massive encyclopedia helps explain how the human genome works

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