human genome
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Uncovering Genetic Dark Matter

Junk DNA crucial to mammalian survival

So-called "junk DNA" may actually be crucial for survival in mammals, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Washington University. 

Genetic dark matter, or junk DNA, is regions of DNA that do not code for any proteins. Scientists already knew that some of this junk does have a function, though they were not sure weather it was a vital function or something an animal could live without.

Researchers tested the importance of one transposon by knocking it out in mice, which lead to half of the mouse's litter being nonviable. Since only one junk transposon was affected, this study demonstrated that supposedly useless DNA could indeed have a function for survival.

The transposon in question originally came from an ancient virus that was absorbed and encoded into early mammalian DNA. Viral-derived DNA makes up at least eight percent of our DNA, and through evolution has become intrinsic and invaluable to our development. For more, head over to SciTechDaily.