The numbers of processes and intricacies contained in the workings of the human body are completely unfathomable. Every structure, and every change in energy, has a purpose. What’s even more amazing is that the instructions for every single one of these are contained in DNA. This fact should lead to the assumption that DNA must be extremely complex; in fact, when scientists were trying to figure out the source of genetic material, they thought that proteins were the carriers of genetic information because of their complexity and variability. It is the opposite with DNA, which is made up only of repeating units of a phosphate group, a sugar group, and a pair of two out of four nucleotide bases. It is the unique combination of these bases that leads to all genetic diversity on Earth, and this fact is absolutely mind-blowing.
It is crazy to think that all of the diversity on Earth comes from differences in the sequence of genetic code. However, it is even more unbelievable when you consider the fact that of the human genome (all of our genetic information), only 1% of all of our genes are protein-coding genes. Protein-coding genes are the ones that undergo transcription and translation to make proteins and essentially to allow for every structure and process in our body. If only 1% of our genes lead to this, then what does the other 99% do?
The other 99% of our genome is important for genetic regulation, or for controlling what genes are expressed and how. Much is still unknown about the mass of regulatory genes, but it is clear that their presence must be essential due to the mass of DNA that they take up. An example of genes that regulate gene expression are Hox genes, or a group of related genes that specify regions of the body plan of an embryo along the head-tail axis of animals. Although they may be expressed differently, they are present in every single animal with bilateral symmetry. They are then expressed specifically to create the animal and to give it its predetermined body plan. Aspects of life like Hox genes show just how related all organisms are. When any animal egg is fertilized, a cluster of cells called a blastula is produced. After it has grown enough, it reaches gastrulation, where it divides itself into three separate layers: the ectoderm (outside layer), the mesoderm (middle layer), and the endoderm (inner layer). These initial divisions then go on to create not only the skin, nervous system, skeletal system, and inner organs, but they lead to specialization of an organism, both as a specific kind of animal and a unique being within its species.
These processes should impart a sense of wonder and appreciation in us for the power of our genes. We are just now beginning to understand the makeup of our genomes and how to use its power to improve our health, avoid deadly genetic mutations, and more. The best example of this is the amazing and controversial system of Crispr-Cas9, which allows us to make specific cuts and changes in genetic material. However, harnessing the power of genetics can be much more commonplace than this—companies like Metagenics intelligently aim to help you realize your genetic potential through nutrition. It is tailored health efforts like these than will allow us to tailor or health to our genetic capabilities, and achieve what nature intended for us. We are miracles just because we were born, and it is essential that we treat ourselves and each other as such!