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Researchers say it's like finding the mold used to make the tool can act as the tool as well

It probably comes as no surprise to most that one of the greatest mysteries known to man is how our own bodies function and operate. Scientists are still unraveling the secrets of the human genome and the building blocks of our bodies.

A pair of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered something not previously hypothesized about the way DNA works using computational biology and comparative genomics. This process uses computational tools to compare and investigate the genetic makeup of organisms from yeasts to humans.

Professor Manolis Kellis and fellow researcher Alexander Stark found that both strands of a DNA segment can perform useful functions. Previously it was believed that one strand of a DNA segment acted as a template for the other strand and that only one strand could perform a useful function.

The researchers’ computational models have found that both strands in a DNA segment can actually perform tasks inside the body. The discovery is likened to finding that a mold used to cast a tool can serve as the tool itself.

The researchers say that many RNAs are translated into proteins with specific functions and that some RNA molecules act directly carrying out functions inside the body. Some RNA genes known as microRNAs play important regulatory roles inside cells during the development of an embryo.

The microRNAs fold into hairpin structures with to nearly perfect complementary sequences. The scientists discovery shows that both these DNA strands can encode RNA and fold into hairpin structures both becoming mature microRNAs. Kellis and Stark say they have found two of these microRNA pairs in the fruit fly and eight pairs in the mouse.

"This represents a new phase in genomics-making biological discoveries sitting not at the lab bench, but at the computer terminal," Kellis says.

Other researchers from MIT were in the news recently with the development of a process that makes growing blood vessels easier to accomplish.





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