Is the genome like a computer program?

Gary Welz 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 
programming language?

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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