Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Junk DNA plays pivotal role in cancer

     In biology, we are taught that within DNA there are genes that code for RNA and the RNA is transcribed into proteins. In most classes, there are in-depth chapters that cover the entire process of transcription and translation. It puts the focus on DNA that codes for proteins, and a lot of times we forget that only a small portion of our DNA actually codes for proteins. The rest of our DNA that does not code for proteins has been given the name "junk DNA." However, we are currently living through the time when researchers are beginning to discover the true purposes of this "junk" and how this is changing our perception of what we previously thought as irrelevant.

     This article brings to attention another role of "junk DNA" by explaining a recent research finding. A research team recently found that one of the roles of "junk DNA" is promoting tumor growth. Specifically, they found that the "junk DNA" reinforces the binding of a specific protein called BRD4, which essentially keeps tumor-promoting genes active at very high levels. Because this is such a new finding, the article merely talks about the discovery and the potential applications and how it could possibly change the way we think of "junk DNA."

     This article was very enlightening for me because when I was first taught biology, my teacher had said that "junk" is an unfair name for non-coding DNA and that it has other uses that we just don't know yet. She thought one day it could have critical information in the treatment of cancer. I was really fascinated by this because it puts into perspective how much we actually know about biology. Only a small amount of our DNA actually codes for proteins, so just that fact alone is such a huge gateway for research to understand even more of biology's unanswered questions. It is really exciting the more research that goes into these biological concepts we don't yet understand because we are learning so much about things that the world had no explanation for only a few years ago. I find it neat that I get to live through and learn biology in a time where the science is still constantly changing and some of our unanswered questions are being answered. This article mostly just mentions the discovery of this connection between "junk DNA" and tumor growth. I think a lot more questions will have to be answered before we can find an applicable treatment for tumor growth using this knowledge. I would love to see some form of gene regulation treatment go into helping cure cancer, because it shows the power of science and how some people in a research lab have the power to change how biology is viewed in the future. I hope that I am lucky enough to live through these new discoveries, but that I will also get to see these discoveries applied to real life cancer treatments.



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