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Some Parts of Human Genome Get Lost

Technology allows scientists to spot non-essential DNA base pairs

THURSDAY, Oct. 22, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have created their first map of parts of the human genome that are considered disposable.

Scientists estimate that at least 2.7 million base pairs of the human genome, which reside in 58 distinct regions of DNA, are non-essential and can disappear without hurting people's health.

The new report builds on previous findings by using microarray technology to find DNA in 600 young and healthy Dutch subjects. Nearly all of the study participants carried so-called complete DNA losses. On average, the number was 50,000 base pairs.

"The results of this study have provided insight into the 'non-essential' parts of the human genome, which will aid in expanding our current understanding of genetic variation among humans," study co-author Terry Vrijenhoek, a medical geneticist from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, said in a news release from the American Society of Human Genetics.

"Clearly, while the large majority of our genes are essential, the current research results suggest that hardly any one of us possesses a complete genome," Vrijenhoek added.

The researchers noted that most people can do just fine without the DNA base pairs, even though some of the genes seem to play a role in disease -- like psoriasis -- and food digestion.

It also appears that evolution protects the most important genes by making sure they're not in areas where base pairs are often lost, the study authors explained.

The findings were to be released this week at the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting, in Honolulu.

More information

Learn more about DNA from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: American Society of Human Genetics, news release, Oct. 21, 2009
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