From Cassandra Willyard at Nature: Since 2000, estimates have ranged from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.
The latest attempt to plug that gap uses data from hundreds of human tissue samples and was posted on the BioRxiv preprint server on 29 May1. It includes almost 5,000 genes that haven’t previously been spotted — among them nearly 1,200 that carry instructions for making proteins. And the overall tally of more than 21,000 protein-coding genes is a substantial jump from previous estimates, which put the figure at around 20,000.
But many geneticists aren’t yet convinced that all the newly proposed genes will stand up to close scrutiny. Their criticisms underscore just how difficult it is to identify new genes, or even define what a gene is.
Still, the inconsistencies in the number of genes from database to database are problematic for researchers, Pruitt says. “People want one answer,” she adds, “but biology is complex.”More.
Hold that thought: “Biology is complex.” It’s not even clear how much that goes on is even under the control of genes. There is, after all, epigenetics, what happens through life that changes the genes, and mechanobiology, the role that physics plays in viable embryo development. This is not a good time for Dawkins’ selfish gene or for genetic fundamentalism in general.
See also: There are now many variants of the “universal” genetic code
Mechanics as well as genetics is needed for viable embryo development
Junk DNA can actually change genitalia. Junk DNA played the same role in defending Darwinian evolution as claims that Neanderthal man was a subhuman did: The vast library of junk genes and the missing link made Darwin’s story understandable to the average person and the missing link even became part of popular culture.
Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!