The “Unknome”: A Database of Human Genes We Know Almost Nothing About; Increased Study of Mystery Genes/Proteins May Accelerate Progress

Researchers from the United Kingdom hope that a new, publicly available database they have created will shrink, not grow, over time. That’s because it is a compendium of the thousands of understudied proteins encoded by genes in the human genome, whose existence is known but whose functions are mostly not. The database, dubbed the “unknome,” is the work of Matthew Freeman, PhD, of the Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, England, and Sean Munro, PhD, of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England, and colleagues, and is described in the open-access journal PLOS Biology. Their own investigations of a subset of proteins in the database reveal that a majority contribute to important cellular functions, including development and resilience to stress.

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