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New study doubles estimate of functional genes in our genome

New study doubles estimate of functional genes in our genome

Image: Researchers identified significant associations between cell types and traits.

A group of researchers from Japan and Australia, through Stem Cells Australia—an ARC Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Science—have completed a landmark study where they revealed that long non-coding RNAs, a poorly understood and highly controversial class of genes, may link with major diseases, including inflammation and cancer. The group generated a comprehensive atlas of 27,919 long non-coding RNAs and summarised their expression patterns across the major human cell types and tissues—the first time this has been achieved. 

By combining this atlas with genomic and genetic data, their results suggest that two-thirds of these RNAs might be functional, hinting that there could be as many, or even more, functional non-coding RNAs than the approximately 20,000 protein-coding genes in the human genome.

Lead researcher, Professor Alistair Forrest, based at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and the University of Western Australia, said “By integrating the improved gene models with data from gene expression, evolutionary conservation and genetic studies, we find compelling evidence that the majority of these long non-coding RNAs appear to be functional, and for nearly 2,000 of them we reveal their potential involvement in many genetic traits including predisposition to heart disease, obesity, depression, autoimmunity and various cancers.” 

Media issued by Stem Cells Australia.

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