2 May 2015

Junk DNA

From This Way Up, 12:15 pm on 2 May 2015

Nessa Carey author of Junk DNAIt cost more than $100 million to sequence the human genome back in 2001. Today there are companies offering to do it for just over $1000!

As well as deciphering the code of life, the Human Genome Project also revealed that only a very small percentage of our DNA actually makes proteins. The rest of the genome was dismissed as junk, because it seemingly had no function.

That was more than a decade ago. Today it's widely accepted that 'junk' DNA is actually very far from worthless. In fact it could actually play a vital role in what makes us human!

Nessa Carey is a scientist who also works in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries and has written  Junk DNA: A Journey Through The Dark Matter of the Genome (Icon Books).

She told This Way Up's Simon Morton, 'People describe junk DNA as being bits of the DNA that have no function, but more and more we keep finding functions for various bits of junk DNA, so then, sort of by definition they can't be junk anymore. So it's one of those situations where biologists have created a term and then keep tripping themselves up by discovering that not everything fits very nicely into that definition'.