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Jumping genes eliminate sections of DNA

at birth.

The L1 elements use a process called reverse transcription to move about and insert themselves into DNA sequences. The researchers found four of 37 jumping events resulted in deletions of genetic material. One of the deletions was nearly as large as an entire gene.

Although they once were labeled junk or useless DNA, these jumping elements have been known for some time to affect the genome profoundly. L1 elements, which account for about 17 percent of our genome, have been implicated in a type of hemophilia -- a condition in which the blood does not clot after a cut -- and several other diseases.

In addition, L1 elements also can carry junk DNA elements known as Alu, which account for another 10 percent of the genome. Alu elements may play a role in several diseases and are known to have played a major effect in modifying our DNA as we evolved. Altogether, L1 elements "may be responsible for creating about 27 percent of our DNA and perhaps more," Moran said. "So these have been significant players in evolution and shaping the human genome."


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