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Friday, October 07, 2016

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory do not understand basic molecular biology

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory employs a number of scientists who work on genes and gene expression. Here's part of a press release published two days ago [For Normal Heart Function, Look Beyond the Genes: Loss of noncoding elements of genome results in heart abnormalities, finds Berkeley Lab study]. It demonstrates that the workers at this National Laboratory don't understand anything about mammalian genomes.

The only other possibility is that the person who wrote the press release doesn't understand molecular biology1 and the scientists who work there just don't care what their institution publishes.
Researchers have shown that when parts of a genome known as enhancers are missing, the heart works abnormally, a finding that bolsters the importance of DNA segments once considered “junk” because they do not code for specific proteins.
Regular readers of this blog know that ...
  1. No knowledgeable scientist ever said that all noncoding DNA was junk.
  2. We've known about regulatory sequences for half a century. We've known about enhancers—just another kind of regulatory sequence—for thirty-five years. Nobody ever thought they were junk. Nobody ever thought they were unimportant.
When scientists sequenced the human genome, they discovered that less than 5 percent of our DNA were genes that actually coded for protein sequences. The biological functions of the noncoding portions of the genome were unclear.

Over the past fifteen years, however, there has been a growing appreciation for the importance of these noncoding regions, thanks in large part to the efforts of individual labs and, more recently, large international efforts such as the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project.

What became clear from this work is that there are many elements of the genome, including enhancers, that are involved in regulating gene expression, even though they do not encode for proteins directly.
At some point this flagrant misrepresentation of facts must be stopped. It's hurting science.

How can you believe anything in the press release once you read this? Do you think this represents the views of the scientists who published the paper? Is so, shame on them. If not, shame on the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

1. I sent her a link to this post.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Have you taken a good look at the actual paper? It would only be fair to criticize the right parties. I scanned that paper, and to my non-expert eye, it was not objectionable, so the PR bureau there gets to take the blame. Or maybe I didn't read it right. What say you, Larry?

  3. The paper does not mention junkDNA, but tries to find functions for yet more DNA.
    The odd thing is that they find "more than 80,000 enhancers predicted to be active in the developing and adult human heart". To me, this makes no biological sense. That many enhancers scarcely can be active all the time or all of them, or the regulation of the enhancing would get stuck. To me, this looks like a computer search of DNA that goes massive into false positives.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. A new headline:
      Creationist Reader of Sandwalk Does Not Understand Basic Evolution.

    2. "A new headline:
      Creationist Reader of Sandwalk Does Not Understand Basic Evolution. "

      Business as usual, no headline necessary.

    3. I'm so glad you put it in all caps Cruglers, you've convinced me.


      Cruglers, this certainly shows (unsurprisingly) you don't understand what Larry is saying. You might try understanding it before writing yet more comments that only further demonstrate you don't understand what you're pretending to discuss.

    5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    6. @Cruglers,

      Why don't you tell us how you jump to "You don't know about random genetic drift" to "You just told me that intelligence is the result of random genetic drift". How in the world do you jump from one to the other?

      Also, if you read Bateson's interview he clearly says that a lot of this stuff is actually quite old. Larry has even mentioned the lac operon, which was discovered in the 1950's, for crying out loud.

      What ideas are backed by evidence have already been around for a while, and all of the "controversial" claims are actually just misrepresentation of science that has been around for a while. Too many of the "Extended Evolution" people are acting like salespersons instead of scientists. They are trying to sell an idea by using misleading advertising instead of doing the science.

  5. "The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory employs a number of scientists who work on genes and gene expression" [snip]

    The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is a physics laboratory. Why is it pursuing work in molecular biology?

    1. Because there is more funding in biology than in physics?

      BNL is a birthplace of T7-based E.coli expression system (pET vectors) and folks employed there contributed a lot to the development of modern crystallographic software (Phenix suite).

  6. The press have always got the science wrong, and it is only becoming more problematic as science becomes more complicated. Regular people can't read peer reviewed papers which is why they rely on the press. It is really the regular, non-scientific laity that are being hurt by this.

    To our creationist, would you like it if someone kept saying that Genesis talks of a Creation Month, instead of a Creation Week? Would you like it if they said that Jonah built a big boat that saved a reproductive pair for each species? Would you like it if they said that Mohammed was a prophet found in the Torah?

    All scientists are asking is for the press, and even fellow scientists talking out of their area of expertise, at least make the effort to get the science right.