Non-coding does not mean non-functioning. Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a linear, single-stranded polymer (large molecule) that contains D-ribose nucleotides that are copied from a DNA template—RNA genes function in the genome. These include a huge diversity of short and long RNAs. Some code for proteins while many others are used in a wide variety of cellular processes.
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center discovered a gene called NORAD that, unlike protein-coding genes, makes a long functional RNA that works directly in the cell's nucleus.1 NORAD helps preserve the correct number of chromosomes in cells (e.g. 46 for humans). Conversely, the cellular chromosome number becomes unbalanced when the NORAD goes awry, a common trait in cancerous cells.
Because DNA damage activates the expression of important RNA genes, molecular biologists have called this gene Non-coding RNA Activated by DNA Damage, or NORAD. When it's absent or inactive, cells commonly experience the gain or loss of entire chromosomes—definitely a problem for human health. Continued research seems to make a strong connection between NORAD and cancerous tumors.
This amazing NORAD gene generates an extended non-coding RNA sequence, long deemed insignificant in the genome—until now. Medical investigator Dr. Joshua Mendell said, "This is an entirely new function for a non-coding RNA and may have implications in cancer biology since genomic instability is a hallmark of tumor cells."2 Evidently, maintaining the normal chromosome number in a cell is the critical function the NORAD RNA provides.
And it appears there are more than twice as many long non-coding RNA genes in the genome than there are protein genes. And many of these are proving to be key players in regulating overall gene expression and function in the genome.
More and more cell biologists are beginning to realize that non-coding regions of DNA and RNA do not automatically mean these sequences have no purpose. Like "junk DNA" passed off by evolutionists as useless but later found to be functional,3,4,5 creation scientists see the Creator's Hand in non-coding RNA sequences produced by NORAD.
- UT Southwestern Scientists Discover a New Role for RNA in Safeguarding Chromosome Number in Human Cells, with Implications for Cancer Biology. newswise. Posted on newswise.com December 23, 2015, accessed January 4, 2016.
- Tomkins, J. 2015. Extreme Information: Biocomplexity of Interlocking Genome Languages. Creation Research Society Quarterly Journal. 51 (3): 187-201.
- Tomkins, J. 2012. Junk DNA Myth Continues Its Demise. Acts & Facts. 41 (11): 11-13.
- Jeanson, N. 2013. Does "Junk DNA" Exist? Acts & Facts. 42 (4): 20.
- Tomkins, J. ENCODE Reveals Incredible Genome Complexity and Function. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org September 24, 2012, accessed January 4, 2016.
*Mr. Sherwin is Research Associate, Senior Lecturer, and Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on January 14, 2016.