Genetic Russian Nesting Doll

Scientists at the University of Washington have discovered another code stashed inside genetic code.  It turns out that some elements of genetic code--codons--actually have a double meaning. The UW scientists have named these codons "duons," because they impact protein sequence with one meaning and gene control with the second meaning. (They are codons with a dual meaning.)

“For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,” said John Stamatoyannopoulos, who led the research team that made the discovery. "Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways.”

As always with genetics, it seems that the more we know, the less we know. The discovery of DNA seemed to promise that we could unlock the secret of life if only we could decode the mysterious double helix. Yet when we completed mapping the human genome in 2003, it became clear that whatever answers we got only opened more questions. If, as we found, only a small percentage of the genome coded for proteins, where did the rest come from? Then there's the camp that points out that genes don't really play nearly as big a role as gene expression does.

Like a Russian nesting doll, the field of genetics seems to open a new set of mysteries for every mystery it cracks. No doubt, this discovery will pose far more questions than it answers. Which makes it tempting to wonder, if the universe is indeed a hologram, is the genetic code just somebody's way of  messing with us?

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