Origins of genomic ‘dark matter’ discovered

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A duo of scientists at Penn State University has achieved a major milestone in understanding genomic “dark matter” — called non-coding RNA. This “dark matter” is difficult to detect and no one knows exactly what it is doing or why it is there in our genome, but scientists suspect it may be the source of inherited diseases. This research achievement may help to pinpoint exactly where complex-disease traits reside in the human genome. This illustration shows, in the upper left corner, a chromosome — a densely compressed package containing one long, continuous strand of DNA. The DNA is pervasively transcribed into RNA, but only a very small fraction of the RNA has the instructions (or codes) for making proteins. The green circles in this illustration represent places along the strand of DNA where transcription originates. New research led by B. Franklin Pugh of Penn State University shows that essentially all RNA, whether or not it codes for proteins, originates at the same types of locations along the strand of DNA. The findings eventually may help to pinpoint exactly where complex-disease traits reside, since the genetic origins of many diseases reside outside of the coding region of the genome. Credit: National Institutes of Health and B. Franklin Pugh, Penn State University Via Origins of genomic ‘dark matter’ discovered.

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