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The Not-So-Junk DNA

By Chris Brown

Prior to the discovery of bacteria, bacterial diseases were a devastating mystery to doctors. This is similar to modern-day maladies which may have curable solutions in DNA sequencing. The answer to such diseases could lie in studying what scientists call "junk DNA." As research deepens into junk DNA, we discover a level of complexity that may just predetermine everything from the diseases we develop to our adaptability.

What Is Junk DNA?

Only about two percent of our DNA directly codes for proteins used in the body. The other 98 percent scientists deemed "junk DNA" until recently, since it has seemingly had no discernable purpose. In the past, scientists assumed that junk DNA primarily served to prolong the use of working DNA sections, as DNA strands get trimmed during cell replication. Alternatively, junk DNA was theorized to be coding that had a purpose somewhere along human's evolutionary chain, but had lost its need in the present. However, as we discover more about the workings of the human body, an increasing amount of junk DNA is being found to not be so junky after all.  

Finding the Purpose in Junk DNA

During a study of mice, a section of junk DNA shared with humans was discovered to be important for mammalian embryotic development. When that DNA section was negated, half the mice's offspring died prior to birth. Replacing that DNA renewed the mice birth rate. Other areas of junk DNA have been discovered as highly important for survival, only "turning on" when certain environmental factors present themselves. For example, a 2008 study of yeast found that a section of junk DNA was critical for yeast's survival when food became limited. However, during times of plenty, that DNA was unused and, in all respects, junk. It's possible that all DNA becomes valuable at one time or another, either in a stage of biological development or when faced by external factors.  

What Junk DNA Means for the Future of Healthcare

Doctors are finding that the secret to determining an individual's prevalence to disease or susceptibility to medication lies in the sequencing of their DNA. Home DNA testing kits have become popular with those seeking to learn more about their disease predisposition, ideal diet, or ancestry. In the future, resolving chronic or currently incurable diseases may be as simple as activating a section of unused DNA. This gives hope to those suffering from illnesses with mysterious causes, such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. In those cases, it may be as simple as waiting for the next DNA discovery for relief. In the future, it may be common knowledge that no such thing as junk DNA exists, but, instead, only DNA for which we have yet to discover its purpose.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Winter Park, Fla.

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