Can Junk DNA Make Us A Junkie?
Most of our DNA (ninety-eight percent) is labeled by scientists as “junk,” meaning that we have not been able to identify any function for these parts of the DNA sequence. Does this apparently purposeless DNA play any biological role? Recent discoveries have allowed us to peel off “the junk DNA” label from at least some DNA, indicating that genes encoding microRNA and other RNA species play critical roles in the function (and malfunction) of almost every living organism. One malfunction found across centuries, cultures, and continents is drug addiction. How addiction develops is still unclear, but recent findings indicate that microRNA is essential for drug addiction. We will look with a fresh eye at the structure of our genome, the role of microRNA and other RNAs in biology, and discuss the possibility of novel, microRNA-based therapies. We will also take a day trip to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the Dolan DNA Learning Center to examine DNA research up close.