Are Genes Our Destiny? Scientists Uncover Hidden Code in DNA

In summary: The gist of the article is that there is a "hidden" code in our DNA that affects how we develop and respond to our environment. The study found that this code can evolve more rapidly than the genetic code, and that it may play a role in the phenotypic diversity of organisms.
  • #1
bohm2
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Flexible epigenetic code-are genes our destiny-?

Are Genes Our Destiny? Scientists Discover 'Hidden' Code in DNA Evolves More Rapidly Than Genetic Code

ScienceDaily (Sep. 16, 2011) — A "hidden" code linked to the DNA of plants allows them to develop and pass down new biological traits far more rapidly than previously thought, according to the findings of a groundbreaking study by researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

The study, published September 16 in the journal Science, provides the first evidence that an organism's "epigenetic" code -- an extra layer of biochemical instructions in DNA -- can evolve more quickly than the genetic code and can strongly influence biological traits. While the study was limited to a single plant species called Arabidopsis thaliana, the equivalent of the laboratory rat of the plant world, the findings hint that the traits of other organisms, including humans, might also be dramatically influenced by biological mechanisms that scientists are just beginning to understand.

"Our study shows that it's not all in the genes," said Joseph Ecker, a professor in Salk's Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, who led the research team. "We found that these plants have an epigenetic code that's more flexible and influential than we imagined. There is clearly a component of heritability that we don't fully understand. It's possible that we humans have a similarly active epigenetic mechanism that controls our biological characteristics and gets passed down to our children. "

With the advent of techniques for rapidly mapping the DNA of organisms, scientists have found that the genes stored in the four-letter DNA code don't always determine how an organism develops and responds to its environment. The more biologists map the genomes of various organisms (their entire genetic code), the more they are discovering discrepancies between what the genetic code dictates and how organisms actually look and function.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110916152401.htm
 
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Here's a citation for the scientific paper being discussed in the Science Daily piece:

Schmitz et al. Transgenerational Epigenetic Instability Is a Source of Novel Methylation Variants. Science Published online 15 September 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1212959

Abstract:
Epigenetic information, which may affect an organism's phenotype, can be stored and stably inherited in the form of cytosine DNA methylation. Changes in DNA methylation can produce meiotically stable epialleles that affect transcription and morphology, but the rates of spontaneous gain or loss of DNA methylation are unknown. We examined spontaneously occurring variation in DNA methylation in Arabidopsis thaliana plants propagated by single-seed descent for 30 generations. 114,287 CG single methylation polymorphisms (SMPs) and 2485 CG differentially methylated regions (DMRs) were identified, both of which show patterns of divergence compared to the ancestral state. Thus, transgenerational epigenetic variation in DNA methylation may generate new allelic states that alter transcription, providing a mechanism for phenotypic diversity in the absence of genetic mutation.
 
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The title made it lool like one of those long arguments about genetic determinism and free will.
 

Related to Are Genes Our Destiny? Scientists Uncover Hidden Code in DNA

1. What is the hidden code in DNA that scientists have uncovered?

The hidden code in DNA that scientists have uncovered is the genetic code which determines the characteristics and traits of an individual.

2. How does this hidden code affect our destiny?

This hidden code affects our destiny by determining our physical appearance, health, and susceptibility to certain diseases.

3. Are genes the only factor that determine our destiny?

No, genes are not the only factor that determine our destiny. Environmental factors, lifestyle choices, and random chance also play a role in shaping our lives.

4. Can this hidden code be modified or changed?

Yes, this hidden code can be modified or changed through genetic engineering and gene therapy. However, these techniques are still in their early stages and have ethical considerations.

5. What are the implications of this discovery for the future?

The implications of this discovery for the future are vast. It could lead to advancements in personalized medicine, disease prevention, and treatment. However, it also raises ethical concerns and the need for strict regulations.

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