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Given that for example humans have five fingers on each hand, is there a region in the genome with a sequence of five similar subregions, one for each finger? Is the region on the genome that encodes for the right hand near another region that encodes for the left hand?

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This kind of question is what developmental genetics is all about. The answer turns out to be, in general, 'no'. There is no neat mapping between spatial dimensions of an organism and its genome. (There is one exception to this in some organisms called the Hox cluster, but they are kind of a freak case).

The reason for this is that in general you should think of the genome as being a recipe for a developmental process, rather than a description of the end product. You might have, say, a specific set of genes which is active in all limb buds, which are the structures that become limbs and fingers etc. These genes would be active at different levels, at different times and places, in your different fingers. E.g. length of time one gene is on could control how long the finger grows for and thus how long it gets.

There are some genes which are only active in specific parts of the body, but you don't necessarily need a particular set of genes for each distinct finger/limb etc. And these genes certainly don't need to be in the same place in the genome. Your left and right hand are going to have identical gene expression for instance.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I am in general interested in how close software is to the recipe you mention and if modern software approaches are very different whether we can adapt what we learn about genetics to developing software. $\endgroup$ – Jeff May 11 '16 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ In general I would say, software code is very, very different from the genetic code, because it has an intelligence behind it. Consider the difference between a road from a mountaintop to the sea, and a river making the same journey. The road's path will be far simpler and more efficient, because the stream can only follow local minima, whereas the road is designed by an intelligence that can consider the whole problem at once. Evolution can be used to generate code, but expect the results to be... different, from what a human mind would produce. $\endgroup$ – Dermot Harnett May 11 '16 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ i think there are some deep questions here. but as i said, even if very different or because it is, we might learn from it. $\endgroup$ – Jeff May 11 '16 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ Possibly - presumably you're aware of evolutionary algorithms. It's an active topic of research. $\endgroup$ – Dermot Harnett May 11 '16 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ Yes but this may end up being very different than a programming language that uses "approaches" that nature uses to build/regulate organisms. $\endgroup$ – Jeff May 11 '16 at 22:41

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