While we all know DNA instructs our cells how to make proteins, scientists have now discovered a second DNA code that suggests the body uses the same alphabet to speak two different languages. The findings in the journal Science may have big implications for how medical experts use the genomes of patients to interpret and diagnose diseases, say researchers.
The newfound genetic code within deoxyribonucleic acid, the hereditary material that exists in nearly every cell of the body, was written right on top of the DNA code scientists had already cracked. Rather than concerning itself with proteins, this one instructs the cells on how genes are controlled. Its discovery means DNA changes, or mutations that come with age or in response to viruses, may be doing more than what scientists previously thought, say the researchers.
“For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,” says lead author Dr John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine. “Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture.”
“Many DNA changes that appear to alter protein sequences may actually cause disease by disrupting gene control programs or even both mechanisms simultaneously.” Via Scientists discover second, secret DNA code