Thursday, September 6, 2012

That junk is valuable!

During spring cleaning in my household, I'm often heard lamenting that yet another of my treasures has been deemed "junk" and hurled into the "it's outta here" box.  As we've been discovering in science, so-called "junk DNA" is also truly a treasure.

As scientists have been outlining for years, even before the start of the ENCODE project to explore the genome "within and between the genes," the noncoding regions of DNA contain important information that allows cells to regulate the activity of genes.

The ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) just announced the publication of 30 linked papers in Nature and other journals that give us the clearest picture yet of the critical roles played by noncoding DNA. 

The journal Nature has a great site that links many resources about these new discoveries in one nifty "dashboard."  Besides the 30 linked papers, you can access podcasts, news, comments, quick summaries of the ENCODE project, and more.  It's a great place to get up to speed on what's going on, so that we can be more informed about the current state of knowledge as we weave the genomic story into our A&P courses.

You might even find some resources that you can use directly in your course . . . or as supplemental activities.

Explore Nature's ENCODE site at