An international research consortium today published a set of papers that promise to reshape our understanding of how the human genome functions. The findings challenge the traditional view of our genetic blueprint as a tidy collection of independent genes, pointing instead to a complex network in which genes, along with regulatory elements and other types of DNA sequences that do not code for proteins, interact in overlapping ways not yet fully understood.
During my degree, it used to really irritate me that geneticists used the term “junk” to describe these non-protein-coding regions. To me, junk means rubbish, stuff we don’t need, eBay-able. I believed that these regions were important, that they couldn’t be more than just the detritus of thousands of years of evolution.
Now of course, I’d have called it a hash in terms of how it seemed to us to be a jumble. A hash is a term also used for encryption as well as for food (as in a mix of things).
Now of course, the junk is now useful. Perhaps even essential.