Scientists know quite a lot about our DNA or perhaps quite a little. We know that DNA serves a function but we also know that the vast bulk of it serves no function at all or perhaps and more likely, it serves no known function – this DNA is referred to as Junk DNA or non-coding DNA.
We continue to discover more and more about our DNA; it is truly a mystery why we have so much of it. Scientists seem to have found a link between cancer and our junk DNA. We knew that many illnesses were genetically linked and in fact, genetic predisposition tests have been made to help us find out the illnesses that we are predisposed to develop; illnesses include lung cancer and breast cancer. However, Junk DNA study it a totally new aspect of DNA that may well tell us much more than what we thought we knew.
Most of our DNA according to molecular biologists encodes for nothing; in fact, they reckon it is around 98%. The other 2 % is what encodes for something; perhaps eye colour, hair colour, predispositions, sex etc. DNA is an incerdibly complex molecule which is extremely long and convoluted much like a ball of string. The fact that we have all this junk DNA that does not seem to serve much of a purpose is of great interest to researchers as they believe it is likely that much of it does serve or served as purpose in the past. If a DNA sequence has served its purpose it is possible for that DNA to be deactivated.
In some experiments scientists have even tried to remove junk DNA sequences and have found that removing these does not in any way affect the physical characteristics or behavior of the animal (this is referred to as a phenotype). The results of such studies on animal DNA can easily be extended to humans without actually experimenting on human DNA, at least not for the time being. Whatever the case, things are changing as scientists are beginning to think that this genetic trash is actually not likely to be trash.
Junk DNA and cancer
The Leeds University UK, the Charite University Medical School and the Max Delbruck Centre for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Berlin, Germany, have been working on our Junk DNA and have found that it can be linked to cancerous growths, specifically Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; a cancer the affects out white blood cells and is generally considered one of the more easily treatable cancers if detected in the early stages.
The study was led by Dr. Constance Bonifer and Dr. Stephen Mathas, from the University of Leeds have been co-researching and found that certain repeats in junk DNA can be linked to the development of Hodgkin’s as well as other types of cancer. They have uncovered the mechanisms through which Junk DNA (which is inactive and thought to have served little purpose) is activated. They have specifically worked on sections of the DNA known as Long Terminal repeats which have developed in human DNA over the thousands of years of human evolution. These Long Terminal Repeats are activated in thousands when lymphoma develops but also likely responsible for tumors. The studies on Junk DNA continue.