Credit: National Cancer Institute
What Is ENCODE, and Why Does It Matter?
A giant leap hasِ just beenِ taken inِ humanity’s understanding ofِ itself.
Eleven years ago, scientists sequenced theِ human genome.
That is, theyِ unraveled theِ spirals ofِ DNA packed insideِ the nucleus ofِ eachِ of ourِ cells andِ figured outِ the ordering ofِ itsِ 3.3 billion chemical base pairs, orِ the molecular letters, ofِ sorts, thatِ spell outِ instructions forِ the cells toِ follow.
So, why does it matter that we now have an encyclopedia of human DNA?
For one, knowing whatِ soِ muchِ moreِ of theِ genetic code actuallyِ does willِ helpِ pinpoint what makesِ us human; evolutionary biologists canِ study howِ the gene switches, asِ well asِ the genes, of Homo sapiens diverged fromِ those ofِ other animals.
More importantly, scientists sayِ the newِ encyclopedia ofِ DNA willِ tremendously accelerate ourِ understanding ofِ why diseases occur andِ how toِ prevent them.
That’s because, moreِ often thanِ not, diseases stem fromِ changesِ that occur inِ regions ofِ the genetic code formerlyِ labeled junk.