|A 3D model of yeast DNA, used to discover a second code embedded in DNA. Photo Flickr/CC|
It's becoming ever more apparent that in the world of genetics that things are much more complex than we initially believed. In addition to Yale's 2012 discovery that DNA is NOT in fact identical in each of an organism's cells, University of Washington researchers discovered in 2013 that there is DNA contains a second hidden code.
DNA's molecular structure was first deciphered in 1953 by Cambridge researchers Francis Crick and James D. Watson; since that time, scientists have believed the molecule only functioned as a cellular blueprint for synthesizing proteins.
However, UW Geneticist Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos has announced the stunning discovery that DNA actually contains two separate languages - one to direct protein manufacture, and the other to tell a cell how to control its genes. Because one language is written atop the second, that second language long remained hidden.
According to Dr. Stamatoyannopoulos, scientists have believed for the past forty years that DNA code only affects how proteins are made, but this is only half the story. His team's new findings show DNA to be "...an incredibly powerful information storage device... which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways.”
DNA uses an "alphabet" of 64 tiny sections called codons. The new research shows that some of these codons, dubbed duons, can carry two messages, one for the sequence of amino acid building blocks in a protein, and the second for controlling genes. Both functions appear to have arisen in tandem, with the instructions for gene control apparently helping to stabilize beneficial protein features and their synthesis.
Duons will mean a major difference in how patient gene sequences are interpreted, and will lead to new diagnoses and treatments of illnesses.
According to Dr. Stamatoyannopoulos, DNA's ability to convey two streams of data simultaneously means alterations which seem to change protein sequences might in fact underlie disease, disrupting programs that control gene functions, or perhaps gene functions and protein synthesis simultaneously, .
Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos' research is part of an international collaboration in the massive ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project), which is gradually decoding the molecular instructions behind the functions of the human genome.
Note: This article is a copyright-protected excerpt from the 2014 revised edition of The Path Book I: Origins, to be published this September by Polyglot Studios, KK and available direct or on Amazon.com.