Scientists found that there is a second code hiding within a DNA. This hidden code reveals information that will affect the way scientists read the DNA-kept instructions and the findings are leading to speculation that it could forever change how doctors uncover, diagnose and treat various diseases.
Scientists at the University of Washington conducted the research as a part of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project, or ENCODE, according to a news release. The project’s objective is to determine how and where directions for biological functions are stored in the human genome.
Since the genetic code was understood in the 1960s, researchers have believed that it was utilized solely for writing information about proteins. The researchers were surprised to find that genomes utilize the genetic code to write two separate languages: one specifies how proteins are constructed and the other teaches the cell about how genes are managed. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language stayed unseen for so long.
Published in the journal Science, researchers explain how Genomes use genetic code not only to write information about proteins, but also to write in two separate languages.
“For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,” said study lead researcher Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos.
“Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways.”
The genetic code is similar for all organisms and is stored in one of the two DNA strands as non-overlapping, linear sequence of nitrogenous bases Adenine (A), Guanine (G), Cytosine (C) and Thymine (T). These four letters are the ‘alphabet’ of the genetic code and are used to write code words.
The genetic code is made up of an alphabet with 64 letters dubbed as codons (the code consists of three-letter words). The research team found out that some of these codons, which they identified as duons, may just have two meanings. Both the first and second meanings seem to have evolved in a concerting manner. They work together, with one controlling proteins and the other stabilizing certain regulations to benefit the proteins.
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