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  Scientists Discover Meaning in ‘Junk’ DNA

Narrator: This is Science Today. For the last twenty-five years, only a handful of scientists have studied what's called "junk" DNA. This refers to the bulk of the human genome that does not encode for proteins.

Lunyak: It's not because it wasn't popular - mainly, it was because there wasn't much funding that was allocated for a study like that. After the genome sequence was completed, everybody just decided to study genes that related to diseases and there are a lot of organizations that were dedicated to funding human diseases and not much was dedicated to study non-coding portion of the genome.

Narrator: Victoria Lunyak, a research scientist at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine was first author of a paper that revealed "junk" DNA can be likened to ‘punctuation marks' that help make sense of the coding portion of the DNA.

Lunyak: It turns out that "junk" DNA is not junk at all. And in fact it gives the genome general meaning.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.