Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And We Learn Genes Are More Complex Than We Thought


[N]ew large-scale studies of DNA are causing her and many of her colleagues to rethink the very nature of genes. They no longer conceive of a typical gene as a single chunk of DNA encoding a single protein. “It cannot work that way,” Dr. Prohaska said. There are simply too many exceptions to the conventional rules for genes.

It turns out, for example, that several different proteins may be produced from a single stretch of DNA. Most of the molecules produced from DNA may not even be proteins, but another chemical known as RNA. The familiar double helix of DNA no longer has a monopoly on heredity. Other molecules clinging to DNA can produce striking differences between two organisms with the same genes. And those molecules can be inherited along with DNA.

NYT


In other words: the gene is more like computer code than a shopping list.

This baffles absolutely no one, but it's good to see in print.

In turn, this means a difference of 0.1% is more than we thought -- and that differences between individuals in groups are less than we thought. We've been looking at minor shifts in the placement of information and assuming it meant vast genetic differences, while ignoring code structured in different ways.

Watch science scramble to smother the difficult information that arises out of this. Conspiracy? No -- no one gets funding for finding unpopular truths.

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Subvert the dominant paradigm, don't be a solipsist.

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