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article imageNew form of DNA discovered in humans

By Tim Sandle     Mar 11, 2012 in Science
A new type of DNA has been discovered in human brain cells. The DNA, called 'microDNA', has implications of the scope of the human genome project and may offer new clues for research into genetic diseases.
Recent scientific research, reported in the journal Science, indicates that the human body cells contain a hitherto unidentified type of DNA. These have been described as "microDNA" and the paper suggests that they could be missing pieces of DNA from chromosomes.
The research group were from the University of Virginia and University of North Carolina. The research team discovered a small circular DNA molecule occurring outside the chromosomes in mouse and human cells. The circular DNA is 200-400 base pairs in length and consists of non-repeating sequences.
The implication of the finding is that the research project to map the human genome may, in fact, not be giving the complete picture of the genetic code of humans. This is because the cells which are mapped as part of the human genome project may have snippets of DNA missing.
The human genome project aims to identify all the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA and to determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA.
The reference for the paper is:
Y. Shibata et al., “Extrachromosomal MicroDNAs and Chromosomal Microdeletions in Normal Tissues,” Science (on-line).
The research has interesting implications for the study of genetic diseases, according to the Scientist website. When genetic diseases are studied cells in the blood are genetically sequenced. The news that there may be other bits of genetic material not associated with cells could mean a whole new direction for the study of genetic diseases.
More about Dna, Cells, somatic cells, Genetic diseases, Genetic code
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