The Deeper Genome

The terms ‘gene’, ‘genetics’, ‘genetic engineering’, ‘gene therapy’, ‘GM crops’ etc. have been current in the media and everyday conversation for a good while now. They are bandied around more than the science behind them is understood. Fortunately, there is a good crop of books for the general reader to gain some understanding. Examples are Matt Ridley’s book Genome  (reviewed by me here and The Language of Genes by Steve Jones (

It has now been more than decade since the Human Genome Project ( completed its mapping of the entire human genome.  Hopes ran high that we would rapidly be able to use our knowledge to tackle many inherited diseases, and understand what makes us unique among animals. But things have not turned out that way. For a start, we have far fewer genes than originally thought – just over 20,000, the same sort of number as a fruit fly or worm. Moreover the proportion of DNA consisting of genes coding for proteins was a mere 2%. The implication seemed to be that the rest of the genome was accumulated ‘junk’. In this book, Dr. John Parrington ( explains the key features that are coming to light – some, such as the results of the international ENCODE programme, still much debated and controversial in their scope. He gives an outline of the deeper genome, involving layers of regulatory elements controlling and coordinating the switching on and off of genes. He also looks at the impact of 3D geometry; the discovery of a variety of new RNAs playing critical roles; the epigenetic changes influenced by the environment and life experiences that can make identical twins different and be passed on to the next generation. Fascinating also are the clues emerging from comparisons with the genomes of Neanderthals and chimps. We are learning more about ourselves, and about the genetic aspects of many diseases. In its complexity, flexibility, and ability to respond to environmental cues, the human genome is proving to be far more subtle than we ever imagined. This is excellent science education for the general reader.


Enquire at your local library or consult  for full bibliographic detail.



272 pages in Oxford University Press

First published 2015

ISBN  978-0199688739



Image result for john parrington

John Parrington


Scroll to Top