Ann Parker here, settling into Saturday as Staci McLaughlin moves into Thursday. According to the old nursery rhyme, "Saturday's child works hard for a living." Well, that's the truth. But I love my work, much of which encompasses science writing. So, I'm going "off topic" today. (If you want sex and violence, or sex OR violence, check out posts by LadyKillers Rita, Staci, Camille, and Priscilla.) Rather, like Mary Anna, I'm striking out on something different...
Instead, I'd like to draw your attention to the very recent announcement in the New York Times of the discovery of "genetic dark matter."
You see, for decades, scientists have been working on unravelling the genetic code. They mapped the human genome, sequenced it, and deciphered bits and pieces. The strange thing was, so much of the genome seemed to be useless, or as it was often called, "junk." There seemed to be no purpose to the chaotic DNA bits filling up the (sometimes) vast spaces between the actual genes.
Well, what they've discovered now (you probably saw this coming), is that the "junk" isn't junk at all, but are really really important. The DNA bits are actually little gene "switches" that (to quote the NYT) "turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave." These switches, once considered as being little more than filler, may be key to development of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, depression, and more.
Just like in a mystery, the truth about this so-called junk was hiding in plain sight, just waiting for someone to grasp its significance in the overall plot and scheme of things.
I urge you to read the NYT article... it's well written and the concepts of the research are easy to grasp.
So, just as Mary Anna started the week celebrating the development of Curiosity on Mars, I shall raise my morning cup of joe to the discoveries of the ENCODE project, which involved 440 scientists from 22 laboratories from around the world.
Life... It's a mystery, and it's amazing.