They think it is crucial to “many aspects of human health”:
Formerly thought to be “junk DNA,” miRNAs are now known to affect gene expression by preventing messenger RNA from making proteins. Past research has indicated miRNAs may have a role in the function of circadian clocks but determining which of the hundreds of miRNAs in the genome might be involved remained a problem.
Kay and his team, led by Lili Zhou, a research associate in the Keck School’s Department of Neurology, turned to the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) in San Diego which has created robots capable of high throughput experiments. Working with scientists at the institute, Zhou developed a high throughput screen for a robot to test the close to 1000 miRNAs by individually transferring them into cells the team had engineered to glow on and off, based on the cell’s 24-hour circadian clock cycle.
“The collaboration with GNF made it possible for us to conduct the first cell-based, genome-wide screening approach to systematically identify which of the hundreds of miRNAs might be the ones modulating circadian rhythms,” said Zhou.
“Much to our surprise,” said Kay, “we discovered about 110 to 120 miRNAs that do this.”Keck School of Medicine of USC, “New study on circadian clock shows ‘junk DNA’ plays a key role in regulating rhythms” at ScienceDaily
The paper is paywalled.
Is junk DNA Darwinism’s self-evidently biggest mistake?