When master theoretical physicist Richard Feynman said, “If you think you understand quantum theory, you don’t understand quantum theory,” he might just as well have been referring to our understanding of DNA. In a recent interview Charlie Rose sat down with New York Times science reporter Gina Kolata (Kolata was a graduate student of MIT’s molecular biology program, and holds a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Maryland) to discuss the freshly cracked-open field of DNA research. For the longest time researchers have known that the genes of each DNA strand inside every living cell comprised only 2% of the DNA’s make-up. The other 98% of the DNA, which has come to be known as “junk DNA” or “dark matter” was thought to be relatively insignificant and dormant because it doesn’t code for proteins. Recently, however, scientists have realized this dark matter may be as important — if not more significant — than the individual genes themselves (i.e. think of Tom Cruse as an individual gene, and his Scientology puppet master brainwashers as the dark matter that turns Tom’s behavior on-and-off). The dark matter inside a DNA strand can be understood as not only the “switches” which can turn genes on and off, these switches can also be dimmed from low to high. The discovery came from a massive worldwide research study orchestrated by the National Institutes of Health, and is rewriting the books on everything we thought we knew about DNA. It has also opened up a giant doorway to exciting new treatments for nearly every single disease known to man. To visit The ENCODE Project (the encyclopedia of DNA elements) simply head over to ENCODEproject.org.
TO WATCH CHARLIE ROSE’S INTERVIEW WITH GINA KOLATA CLICK HERE (AND CLICK ON GINA’S IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO PLAYER).