CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Christian Examiner) – In their quest to learn how DNA is folded, a group of scientists from numerous prestigious institutions published their findings on the intricate and predictable patterns they discovered in DNA—without once referencing intelligent design.
"For over a century, scientists have known that DNA forms loops inside of cells, and that knowing where the loops are is incredibly important," said co-first author Suhas Rao, a researcher at the Center for Genome Architecture at Baylor, according to the affiliated Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
Even though DNA is represented on paper by the four letters A, G, C, and T, it is a physical, three-dimensional chain that is looped and twisted throughout every cell. If DNA from a single cell were unfolded into a straight line, it would be about six feet long.
"But mapping the positions of all those loops was long thought to be an insurmountable challenge," Rao continued.
One of the most exciting things that scientists discovered is a predictable pattern in DNA that indicates when loops will form. Of the four ways that the pattern could be oriented, it formed a loop when facing one direction more than 90 percent of the time, according to the team's findings published in Cell.
Loops often have a gene at one end. When loops are formed according to specific patterns, they can help "activate" genes—like a switch.
"Our maps of looping revealed thousands of hidden switches that scientists didn't know about before," said co-first author Miriam Huntley, a Ph.D. student in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
A GHOSTLY LAWNMOWER
Though the scientific paper describes only the hypothesis, research methodology, and findings, it is easy for Christians to credit the truth of intelligent design as the cause of the regular, predictable nature of DNA.
In research into mouse DNA, the team found the same protein, CTCF, which indicates the join spots of the 10,000 loops in the nucleus of a single cell.
In a profile in the Atlantic, the author explains the researchers' theory about the extrusion complex, which serves to explain how loops form without tangling and stop when they come across CTCF proteins facing the same direction.
"It's like a ghostly lawnmower, whose presence is inferred by looking at a field of freshly shorn grass, or the knife that we only know about by studying the stab wounds," wrote science reporter Ed Yong.
He calls the DNA creator a "mystery machine" in the article's title.
Even though the extrusion complex is a theory, it explains observed facts. "The genome totally behaves as if the extrusion complex was a thing," wrote Yong, adding that the genome's behavior was predictable according to a simulation by Rao and co-author Adrian L. Sanborn of the Baylor College of Medicine.
This amazing 3-D map has significant implications for medical science. "These predictions were so accurate that the team could even re-sculpt the genome at will," Yong said.
AN ORIGAMI ARTIST
Rao and Huntley are the narrators of a short video they produced to explain their findings to a nonscientific audience, available on Cell. They use the metaphor of folds in origami to praise the intricacies of the genome.
The scientists hope to understand how to deconstruct and rebuild DNA now that they know loops can indicate and activate genes. "In the case of genes that can cause cancer or other diseases, knowing where these switches are is vital," Huntley added.
All genomes are made of the same materials and behave according to the same general principles, whether or not we fully understand what the principles are.
"Loops correlate with gene activation and are conserved across cell types and species," says the paper abstract. Essentially, the genome is not random, and it is not isolated.
With two types of folds and a piece of paper, an origami craftsman can make almost any shape. With four links in the DNA chain, the Creator made all forms of life.
The findings are truly amazing, and their minute complexity upholds intelligent design.