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Daniel Boyd

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Does the genome contain enough information?

The genome contains precisely the information needed to produce the collection of proteins contained in the cells of an organism - no more. It therefore has no information left to determine the entire three dimensional structure of the organism, its organs and cells. Please explain why this is not true.


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  • Sep 20 2013: Actually the genome contains a fair bit more than the sequences of protein you find throughout the body.
    Most of it is what we call "junk" DNA, which either has no use or some use we don't fully understand (there are theories, but nothing 100% conclusive). So theoretically, you could trim out large sections of your DNA, and as long as they were carefully selected, there would be no adverse effect (though you may feel a bit lighter).

    Besides, the proteins to build things on a cellular level are plenty to determine the organism's overall structure. They interact with each other specifically towards that end. Enough micro-chemistry eventually adds up to bigger things.
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      Sep 21 2013: Nadav, this is the first method of 'weight reduction' I hear of which would probably work! lol

      And in case this wasn't intentional humor, please forgive me, as I agree with what you are saying here as well.
      • Sep 22 2013: Actually, I'd love to be able to run this sort of thing as an experiment, just to see what would happen if all the junk DNA just disappeared (though probably not on a human, at least until its deemed safe). It'd certainly help us understand what its there for.

        But even if there's no effect, I like the idea of making a killing off of turning "junk DNA removal" into a weight loss strategy.
        It'd be hilarious if nothing else.
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          Sep 23 2013: It is interesting how little we still know about our DNA and that we could only find out about 'junk DNA' by trial and error in removing it.

          But be quick in filing your copyright for this weight loss strategy, before ''Weightwatches' gets to know about it ... :o)
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      Sep 21 2013: Even if there was a mechanism by which non-coding sequences could get involved in this construction process, they would still contain insufficient information to specify every parameter of the morphology and physiology of a multicellular organism.

      You propose that there are plenty of proteins to determine the organism's overall structure, but there are no more proteins than their are genes. So still too little information.

      Certainly, proteins do build things at a cellular level (and cells combine to form multicellular organism). My question is why they do this in the specific way they do, rather than the myriad other ways that the same collection of molecules could arrange themselves.
      • Sep 22 2013: I think the problem lies in your understanding of the scale of things.

        The human genome is ridiculousness long. Scientists have calculated its actually a lot longer than it needs to be--as in, there is all the information required to make a human stored in every single cell, and then some.
        Proteins reaction on a miniature scale eventually scale up to bigger things. The protein reactions are numerous enough and complex enough for an entire large organism to form, no extra DNA required.

        Its like asking how does each individual worker working on a sky scrapper know how the whole building turns out?
        The answer, he doesn't. He just does the small part assigned to him and it all works out in the end under the supervision of a management system, comprised of other workers whose job is management. Proteins are very much the same. You have proteins "coordinating" the other proteins into structures much larger than themselves.
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          Sep 23 2013: The construction of a building is an interesting comparison that served to illustrate just what a challenge we are talking about. To start with, a sky scraper is a far less complex construction both structurally and functionally than even a singel cell, let alone an organism.

          More importantly, all of the information required to build it is explicitly available - in the blueprints drawn up by the intelligent architect that are used by the intelligent worker.

          The cell's proteins are neither intelligent architects nor intelligent workers, and there don't seem to be any blueprints around - just instructions for making bricks and girders. So how do the bricks and girders get put together in just the right way?

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