Non-coding RNAs: Junk or Critical Regulators in Health and Disease?

Four pie charts showing the relative amounts of coding and non-coding regions in the genomes of bacteria, yeast, worms, and humans.

The non-coding regions of the genome have undergone an expansion throughout evolution, supporting their potential importance in organismal complexity. These transcribed non-coding regions give rise to various classes of small or long non-coding RNAs. Research during the last decade has been instrumental in elucidating the roles of these genes in normal physiology and disease. (Image by MIT OpenCourseWare, pie charts courtesy of Dr. Nadya Dimitrova and Dr. Thales Papagiannakopoulos.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Spring 2012



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Course Description

Course Description

Every time we scientists think that we have dissected the precise biological nature of a process, an incidental finding, a brilliantly designed experiment, or an unexpected result can turn our world upside down. Until recently thought by many to be cellular "junk" because they do not encode proteins, non-coding RNAs are gaining a growing recognition for their roles in the regulation of a wide scope of processes, ranging from embryogenesis and development to cancer and degenerative disorders. The aim of this class is to introduce the diversity of the RNA world, inhabited by microRNAs, lincRNAs, piRNAs, and many others.

This course is one of many Advanced Undergraduate Seminars offered by the Biology Department at MIT. These seminars are tailored for students with an interest in using primary research literature to discuss and learn about current biological research in a highly interactive setting. Many instructors of the Advanced Undergraduate Seminars are postdoctoral scientists with a strong interest in teaching.

Related Content

Nadya Dimitrova, and Thales Papagiannakopoulos. 7.345 Non-coding RNAs: Junk or Critical Regulators in Health and Disease?, Spring 2012. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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