Is the genome like a computer program?
gwelz at panix.com
Thu Apr 13 20:04:34 EST 1995
I'm writing a speculative article about the large scale structure of the genome. Does anyone besides me think
that an organism's genome can be regarded as a computer program? I mean that its structure can be presented as
a flowchart with genes as objects connected by logical terms like "and" and "or?" Of course, conditional
activity in the genome - the analog of the "while" loop - has been studied for some time.
One development that might support this point of view is the recent demonstration (reported in last week's
Science) that the eyeless gene can be inserted into various parts of the chromosome of a fly and cause it to
have eyes grow on different parts of its body. Is eyeless a free standing genetic object that can be plugged
into any syntactically correct sequence and function as though it belonged there naturally? If so, what is the
nature of the programming language that makes this possible?
Dr. Gene Stanley and others at Boston U. and Harvard Medical School have done statistical analyses of
non-coding DNA sequences (published in Physical Review Letters a few months ago) that suggest that there may be
linguistic structures, i.e. words within them. Are some of these non-coding sequences the terms of the genetic
If this is interesting to you, or if you think its bogus, let me know.
Mr. Gary Welz
Dept. of Mathematics
John Jay College, CUNY
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