So-called “junk DNA” — which doesn’t actually code for proteins — has long been considered the “dark matter” of human biology because we understand so little about it. And junk DNA is quite prevalent, as scientists have long believed that only 1 percent of our genome actually codes for the building blocks of life. The exact role of the rest of our DNA has been a mystery. But now, a major breakthrough from the five-year Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project reveals that junk DNA plays a more critical part in our biology than we ever realized. Indeed, junk DNA could unlock cures for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, and maybe even allow us to bio-engineer Olympic-caliber athletes.
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