Scientists are beginning to understand mysterious parts of our DNA. Here’s what they’ve found so far.

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

When scientists were exploring the sequenced genomes of certain birds and rodents they noticed something odd. A sequenced genome means everything is laid bare, and yet certain DNA sequences were missing, which was unusual because these DNA sequences were very important. They controlled the production of leptin in the birds or the secretion of insulin in the rodents, genes that the scientists knew had to be there, otherwise they’d have some mighty obese birds and dead rodents on their hands.

What’s more, the scientists studying the rodents found the products of the missing DNA sequences in their cells, so they deduced that the genes weren’t missing, but were somehow hidden. They dubbed these elusive sequences “dark DNA.” This dark DNA may be best described as a blind spot in our DNA sequencing technology. A closer look at the rodent’s genome found a heavily mutated section with abnormally high amounts of guanine and cytosine, two of DNA’s four base molecules, called G and C for short.

It turns out GC rich sequences are difficult to detect, so the researchers missed this mutated pocket of DNA at first. This dark DNA raises questions about how quickly mutations occur, and what genes we may have missed when we sequenced other genomes like our own. There could be more DNA in us than we realized, and we only know about what 1 to 2% of the DNA we have found does.

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