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Natural Sciences: Junk DNA Has an Important Role

The term miracle is increasingly losing its romance with the corresponding advancement of modern science. The unrevealed mystery of nature, which was considered utterly inexplicable, only the other day, has now become an object glaring reality at the magic touch of science. It is, undoubtedly, a bewildering experience to think of a man landing on the moon, and of a robot doing the jobs of a man of flesh and blood. All these have been possible only due to technology. From a simple power-driven tool designed to carry out only one process, previously carried out by a single craftsman, most of the present-day machines have become a highly integrated complex of mechanical equipment performing a series of processes automatically. This evolution or better described as the revolution has had deep-rooted effects on our socio-economic environment, thus affecting human life. At the same time, it is important to identify the best possible resource to use technology. Using Junk DNA is such an important technological and social breakthrough.

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DNA or Deoxyribonucleic Acid is a nucleic acid in which stores information or instructions for the development and functioning of organisms on a long-term basis. It contains coded instructions needed to construct proteins and RNA molecules. The genetic information container genes is a part of the DNA molecule which allows all modern living beings to function, grow and reproduce. (Masters, 2005) The genomic DNA (genome) is found in the cell nucleus of eukaryotes and in mitochondria and chloroplasts.

At the initial stages of the genetic studies, it was found that almost 95 % of the genes did not contribute to activities of the DNA and were labeled as “JUNK”. In human beings, only 1.5 % of the genomes contain protein-coding DNA. (Smith, 2005) Junk DNA is a name given to portions of the DNA that cannot be coded to synthesize protein. The presence of the large amounts of this useless portion in the DNA is still shrouded in mystery. The percentage of the “codable” DNA is as little as 1.2 % in the human being. The rest of it is the non-coding junk DNA. (Prothero, 2007) This junk DNA can be classified under two categories:

  • Pseudogenes – The chromosomal regions which are composed of the ancient genes which are now non-functional and non-coding.
  • Retrotransposons – The parts of the genes acquire mutation to form complex structures called retrotransposons present in Eukaryote (Masters, 2005).

However, the study of junk DNA and the mystery behind its abundant presence in the human genome has brought out some interesting facts. The junk DNAs of Oxytricha, a pond-dwelling single-celled organism are found to be performing central functions for the growth mechanism of the organism.

The studies of the genes of humans and rats have brought about remarkable discoveries. Other than expected differences, the studies brought out extensive similarities between the so-called junk DNAs of both organisms. Over five hundred stretches of similar DNA strands were found which hints us towards the possibilities of common ancestors. The presence of these highly conserved DNAs in various species of the animal kind is highly helpful to make in-roads to answer the many question marks that have been left unanswered by the theory of evolution. Comparing the junk DNA can also make gateways to discover the cure for incurable diseases such as autism and epilepsy. The studies of the junk DNA of the patient and the normal human being can be used to reveal the secrets of these diseases. (Prothero, 2007)

The junk DNA is also said to provide structure to the DNA which renders it possible to perform its’ functions. The long strands of the non-coding DNA provide it much-needed stability and design to the DNA strands. Without this design, the functionalities of the DNA are nil. Hence, this junk DNA plays a vital role in genetic design. Heterochromatin, a part of the non-coding DNA, takes part in the suppression of the genes and their regulation. It also plays important mitosis and other DNA activities and functionalities (Smith, 2005).

During the last two hundred years, there has been an unprecedented acceleration in man’s knowledge of and power to control his material environment, such as first of all, steam, then electricity, and now atomic energy simultaneously with these discoveries and inventions, there has been a similar accretion of knowledge about the materials used in the manufacture and progressive refinement of the machines themselves. Production of electronic pieces of equipment and components has come a long way since the days of radio receivers in the 1940s. All these are the results of proper identification of the resource. Thus, from the above discussion of Junk DNA, we can easily reason that it can be inferred that the junk DNA is truly not junk. It plays a vital role in the genetic capabilities of animal beings and acts as a key role in the mysteries regarding the evolution of mankind. As a result, it is important to harness this important resource to make the future more productive and easy for human life. It is time that we should understand the importance of Junk DNA and process this resource to its optimum extent.

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  1. Masters, C. (2005). DNA and your body: what you need to know about biotechnology. LA: UNSW Press
  2. Prothero, D R. (2007). Evolution: what the fossils say and why it matters. SF: Columbia University Press.
  3. Smith, G. (2005). The Genomics Age: How DNA Technology is Transforming the Way We Live and who We are. NY: AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.

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