Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gene Research Shows the Truth of Proverbs 23:7

“Don’t blame me. I got my meanness from your side of the family.” …
“I got my stubbornness from Uncle Joe.” … 
“I can’t help it; that’s just the way I am.”
Blaming your genes can make a handy excuse. It is also highly misleading. A decade-long international research collaboration involving 442 scientists in 32 worldwide institutions now makes obsolete the original scientific views about DNA and genes. This research initiative, called ENCODE, was initiated and largely funded by the Genome Research Institute of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Just this week, some 30 groundbreaking publications have appeared in premier journals such as Nature and Science.
This accumulated mountain of data unequivocally demonstrates that most of our genes do not code for RNA that translates into proteins used by the body. True, the ENCODE project confirmed that there are about 21,000 traditional protein-coding genes, but they constitute only about 3% of the human genome. Until now, all the other DNA was thought to be “junk DNA,” presumably left over from ancient ancestors with no function in today’s evolved species.
ENCODE scientists have discovered that about 80% of the human genome does have function, but that DNA transcribes RNA as end  products that regulate the expression of protein-coding genes. When a protein-coding gene is expressed, its double helix strands of DNA become unzipped to expose the coding nucleotides so they can translate the code into the RNA that will then translate the code into the various proteins used by the body. Most of the DNA previously thought to be “junk” has now been revealed to regulate gene expression by way of enhancing or suppressing gene expression or shielding protein-coding DNA.
Over 18,000 species of regulatory RNA have been described. Clusters of regulatory genes are found throughout the chromosomes, and they very often regulate non-adjacent genes, often working with other regulatory genes as a team.
These new findings cause some scientists to assert a need to redefine what a gene is. The basic unit of heredity, they say, is not DNA, but rather its RNA transcripts. Why is this new view important? Production of regulatory RNA is governed by the environment, not your biological inheritance. These “epigenetic” influences include things like what you eat, your bodily activities, what you think, and the feedback from how you behave. For example, a muscle body builder, through intense exercise, causes expression of genes to make extraordinary muscle mass. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger before, during, and after his body building career. He had the same protein coding genes all along, but their expression changed by what he chose to do.
What this says is that you can control the expression of your genes by the choices you make and by what you think and do. Most of us are born with a genome that can generate a happy and productive life. Whether that happens or not depends on how our choices and actions affect gene expression.
So, next time you are tempted to blame your genes for a bad outcome, consider what role you played in the expression of those genes. Science is showing the truth of Proverbs  (chapter 23 verse 7),

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Pennizi, Elizabeth (2012). ENCODE project write eulogy for junk DNA. Science. 337: 1159-1161.

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