RNA(s): variety individuation

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A nice little example of "variety individuation" (see here), in which a mass noun N (like wine) has corresponding count uses meaning 'variety of N' (as in three fine wines), from a piece by Andrew Pollack ("The Promise and Power of RNA"), in the 11 November Science Times section of the NYT. It's all about RNA.

RNA is clearly a mass noun for a long part of the article. But then we get to the hard fact that there are lots of different types of RNA, and count uses (referring to varieties of RNA) blossom, often alternating with mass uses.

So: on page D3:

But scientists are now finding that a lot of DNA is transcribed into RNA [M] without leading to protein production. Rather, the RNA [M] itself appears to be playing a role in determining which genes are active and which proteins are produced.

Much attention has focused on micro-RNAs [C], which are short stretches of RNA [M], about 20 to 25 letters long. They interfere with messenger RNA [M], reducing protein production.

More than 400 micro-RNAs [C] have been found in the human genome, and a single micro-RNA [C] can regulate the activity of hundreds of genes …

… As a result, Dr. Bartel said, the activity of more than half the genes in the human genome is affected by micro-RNA [M].

"It's going to be difficult to find a developmental process or a disease that isn't influenced by micro-RNAs [C]," he said.

… Scientists are also finding other types of RNA [M], some of which may work differently from micro-RNA [M]. By now, there are so many types of RNA [M] than one needs a scorecard to keep track.

Besides micro-RNA [M] (miRNA), the new ones include small interfering RNA [M] (siRNA), piwi-interacting RNAs [C] (piRNA), chimeric RNA [M], and promoter-associated and termini-associated long and short RNAs [C].

There's more, but this is enough to show how easy it is to move back and forth between M and (variety-individuated) C uses.

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