06:58am Friday 18 August 2017

"Junk DNA" holds clues to disease, evolution

Why do humans not look like chimpanzees, despite sharing 99% of the same DNA?   Photo by Juliane Riedl.

Why do humans not look like chimpanzees, despite sharing 99% of the same DNA?
Photo by Juliane Riedl.

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The answer to all of these questions may lie in genetic material previously known as “junk DNA”.

“It’s common knowledge that our genetic blueprint is encoded in our DNA, or genome. It’s also a common misconception that the main component in that blueprint is our genes,” says Professor David Adelson, Head of the University’s School of Molecular & Biomedical Sciences.

“In reality, genes comprise just 2% of our DNA. The remaining 98% of our DNA – once known as ‘junk DNA’ – may play a key role in defining certain physical traits within species, as well as defining the differences between species themselves.”

Professor Adelson will present the latest of the free public Research Tuesdays seminars at the University of Adelaide tomorrow night (5.30pm Tuesday 12 October).

His presentation will give members of the community a better understanding about how and why humans differ from other mammals despite sharing many of the same genetic elements. They will also hear how research into “junk DNA” could hold the key to unlocking the causes of many genetic diseases, physical traits, how we age, and even our susceptibility to cancer.

Professor Adelson says research has now been conducted into the genetic similarities and differences between humans, chimpanzees, cows, horses, mice, rats, dogs, elephants, opossums and platypuses.

“This area of science is capturing the attention of researchers worldwide, including scientists here at the University of Adelaide,” Professor Adelson says.

WHAT: Research Tuesdays: Genes and Jumpers – How mobile elements in our DNA interact with genes to make us look like ‘us’ by Professor David Adelson
WHERE: Horace Lamb Lecture Theatre, North Terrace Campus, University of Adelaide
WHEN: 5.30pm Tuesday 12 October
COST: Free. Please book by email: research.tuesdays@adelaide.edu.au or phone: (08) 8303 3692


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