London - Humans use only eight percent of their DNA, scientists have found.

The rest is “junk DNA”, the result of an evolutionary hangover and which, much like the appendix, doesn’t do any good but also doesn’t do any harm.

Oxford University academics discovered that just 8.2 percent of DNA is likely to be doing something important.

Researcher Dr Gurton Lunter said: “The vast majority of it is sitting there doing nothing. It is taking up space.”

It was previously estimated that 80 percent of our DNA was “functional” – or doing something useful.

Being able to separate the wheat from the chaff is important because it will enable researchers to zero in on the DNA behind disease and speed up the search for new cures.Researcher Professor Chris Ponting said: “From a medical point of view, this is essential to interpreting the role of human genetic variation in disease.”

The researchers came up with the estimate of 8.2 percent after comparing our DNA with that of various mammals and looking for chunks that have stayed the same despite millions of years of evolution.

This lack of change was taken as a sign that it was doing something important.

The researchers added: “We tend to have the expectation that all of our DNA must be doing something.

“In reality, only a small part of it is.”

The study is published in the journal PLOS Genetics. - Daily Mail