Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Junk RNA Does Not Exist

The chemical structure of RNA. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

"There is no such thing as junk RNA" is the take home message of a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. Associate professor Bino John and colleagues published their research in the Journal of Virology.

RNA or ribonucleic acid has an important function in information transfer within the cell.

The researchers noticed that even tiny stretches of RNA of only 15 nucleotides take part in biological processes. Previously, scientists had assumed that they were mere junk.

John and colleagues call these tiny RNA stretches usRNA (unusually small RNA). They found them as they were studying the herpes virus.

According to Science News, the discovery of these very common but hitherto neglected usRNAs ”could lead to new types of biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis, and new therapeutic targets”.

For many decades, Darwinian thinking conditioned scientists to assume that we were full of leftovers from our animal past. This assumption hampered the progress of medical science. Only with the advent of new biochemical discoveries has science begun to escape from its Darwinian straitjacket.

The consequences have been beneficial.


ScienceDaily Science News. No Such Thing As 'Junk RNA,' Say Researchers. 18 October 2009.