My latest WTF moment is this article, Human chromosomes are only half DNA, which presents this little fact as if it is surprising and ground-breaking.
A chromosome is believed to be an “organized structure containing most of the DNA of a living organism.” However, new research finds that DNA makes up only half of the material inside chromosomes – far less than was previously thought.
Instead, up to 47 percent of a chromosome’s structure is actually a mysterious sheath that surrounds the genetic material, researchers from the University of Edinburgh said in a statement.
Say what? A university PR department strikes again, and an oblivious journalist scribbles it up. This is not news. This is not new. I’ve no idea how long I’ve been teaching this, but it’s been ages. Here’s Alberts’ Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th edition, from 2002.
The proteins that bind to the DNA to form eucaryotic chromosomes are traditionally divided into two general classes: the histones and the nonhistone chromosomal proteins. The complex of both classes of protein with the nuclear DNA of eucaryotic cells is known as chromatin. Histones are present in such enormous quantities in the cell (about 60 million molecules of each type per human cell) that their total mass in chromatin is about equal to that of the DNA.
And what’s with this “mysterious sheath” nonsense?
If you’re a reporter who’s never taken a basic cell biology class, you have no way of reasonably presenting the context around even a simple observation, so don’t even try, and never trust a university press release, because they’re typically written by people as ignorant of science as you are.