Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#StevesLibrary: Junk DNA

As someone that has completed a formal education on a biology-related topic, I was well aware beforehand that ‘junk DNA’ isn’t just junk. After all, it makes up the majority of our genome (98% of it is junk DNA). That is an absurd amount especially if it does nothing but of course it does. The reason it’s called junk DNA is because it doesn’t specifically code for any proteins, there are no genes in that 98% of the genome. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t actively play a role in our development and day-to-day functioning as Carey points in in Junk DNA.

Carey explores the the incredible story behind junk DNA, which itself is a hot topic for debate between scientists and the media. She shows that junk DNA plays important roles throughout the body and when it goes wrong or mutates, it can lead to a number of debilitating genetic diseases. Other functions include sex determination, the ageing process the potential for treatments using stem cells. All of this is packaged in a book that is aimed at the general reader with a number of pop culture references and typical British wit. The information is highly accessible and I thoroughly enjoyed taking a step back from reading a book on animals, ecology or conservation for once. Maybe I’ll do it more often from now on. Carey explains the outcomes of a number of experiments that have demonstrated the role and function of different sections of junk DNA, often with superb humour.

Carey removes references to gene names and other technical nomenclature (relegating them to footnotes) which helps breaks down barriers with those that may not be an expert in genetics. Given the topic of Junk DNA, I suspect that there will be overlap with Carey’s previous book, The Epigenetics Revolution. As I haven’t read this yet, I can’t be sure but watch this space! If you’re looking for something a little different, to have a laugh and to learn at the same time, why not give it a read?

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