'Zombie' DNA Can Wake Up, Cause Disease

Long-inactive gene triggers form of muscular dystrophy
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2010 2:56 PM CDT
The structure of DNA is illustrated in this artist's rendering.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Geneticists have found the culprit causing a common form of muscular dystrophy—zombie DNA. Sort of. They've discovered that long-inactive genes—so-called junk DNA lying dormant in the human genome for thousands of years—"can rise from the dead like zombies" and cause trouble, explains Gina Kolata in the New York Times. This is the first time they've witnessed the feat, which they spell out in the journal Science.

“As soon as you understand something that was staring you in the face and leaving you clueless, the first thing you ask is, ‘Where else is this happening?’” says one of the researchers. They'll now look for other diseases that can be explained the same way. Click here for their breakdown of the complicated way in which the DNA can come to life.

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