UCL News


UCL in the News: Life just got a lot more complicated

19 June 2007

Seven years ago, with much ballyhoo, scientists unveiled the book of life - the DNA required to build and run a human being.

Last week, a small army of geneticists reported the results of the first systematic attempt to make sense of this book.

What they found makes uncomfortable reading for those who thought they understood the basics of biology. …

The most exhaustive probing of the genome to date, a £20 million pilot project, suggests the meaning of DNA's message remains elusive. Professor Steve Jones [UCL Biology] describes the seismic implications of the new findings: "I once wrote a book called The Language of the Genes, but now biologists are beginning to face up to the uncomfortable truth that they have only been looking at the nouns in life's lexicon - the crudest and most basic elements of any tongue.

Now we are reading the spaces in between - verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns and all the rest, and they are complicated indeed. Worse, the genome babbles, stutters and mangles its pronunciation and now and again seems to speak utter nonsense."

Roger Highfield, 'Daily Telegraph'