'Junk DNA' helps control cell development

Washington, Aug 5 (ANI): Far from being "junk", the 97 percent of human DNA that does not encode instructions for making proteins can play a significant role in controlling cell development, a new study has found.

Researchers from the Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program at Sydney's Centenary Institute have unravelled a previously unknown mechanism for regulating the activity of genes, increasing our understanding of the way cells develop and opening the way to new possibilities for therapy.

Using the latest gene sequencing techniques and sophisticated computer analysis, a research group led by Professor John Rasko AO and including Centenary's Head of Bioinformatics, Dr William Ritchie, has shown how particular white blood cells use non-coding DNA to regulate the activity of a group of genes that determines their shape and function.

"This discovery, involving what was previously referred to as "junk", opens up a new level of gene expression control that could also play a role in the development of many other tissue types," Rasko said.

"Our observations were quite surprising and they open entirely new avenues for potential treatments in diverse diseases including cancers and leukaemias," he said.

The findings are published in the scientific journal Cell. (ANI)