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Human Genome Project & RNA

The human genome project is uncovering new information that holds the keys to development and evolution. One of those discoveries involves new clues about a regulator within eukaryotic (cells with nuclei) cells that is based on RNA. In The Hidden Genetic Program of Complex Organisms, John S. Mattick (2004) explains this discovery and how it represents a paradigm shift aware from genetic dogma related to the regulation of human genes and other complex organisms. Mattick (2004) provides a discussion of conventional views of gene regulation in humans and other complex organisms. Prior to new discoveries, researchers believed in a few different assumptions regarding human gene regulation. Extra material in DNA organisms seemed irrelevant to protein production. This additional material was assumed to be "evolutionary junk" (Mattick, 2004, p. 60).

For the past 50 years, scientists have assumed that genetic information encoded in DNA is transcribed as intermediary molecules of RNA, which are then translated into amino acid sequences that comprise proteins. Mattick (2004) maintains that the prevailing credo based on this assumption is known as "one gene, one protein" (p. 60). Such assumptions were based mainly on studies of prokaryotic (single-cells lacking a nucleus) cells in bacteria like E. coli. Such studies led scientists to believe that proteins were the main catalyst for regulating gene expression.

Because of research on the human genome project, however, such assumptions are now being undermined for eukaryotic cells and complex organisms. During research on the human genome project, scientists discovered that the formerly though of as "junk" DNA may actually be molecules that carry out a number of regulatory functions, including the encoding of DNA (Mattick, 2004). The findings represent new information on potential differences between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells and their corresponding genetic mechanisms. The r...

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