"A Challenge to Gene Theory"


An article in today’s NY Times (business section!) caught my eye – “A Challenge to Gene Theory” by Denise Caruso, reporting on a recent study by the United States National Human Genome Research Institute.  From the article:

To their surprise, researchers found that the human genome might not be a “tidy collection of independent genes” after all, with each sequence of DNA linked to a single function, such as a predisposition to diabetes or heart disease.

Instead, genes appear to operate in a complex network, and interact and overlap with one another and with other components in ways not yet fully understood. According to the institute, these findings will challenge scientists “to rethink some long-held views about what genes are and what they do.”

Biologists have recorded these network effects for many years in other organisms. But in the world of science, discoveries often do not become part of mainstream thought until they are linked to humans.

I have to say I don’t find this particularly surprising at all.  To think that we’ve already got all of human genetics figured out already is quite a reach.  I never liked the term ‘junk DNA’ that science folks used to describe the parts they couldn’t understand.  Maybe it doesn’t serve a purpose, but it seems arrogant to just assume that, instead of assuming that we just don’t know yet.

I’d say it’s the current intellectual infatuation of thinking of both genetics and the brain in terms of ‘computer science’ that leads to some of these simplifications.

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