Human genome revealed in 3D13th October 2009
A US-based research team has managed to understand the way the human genome is arranged inside cell nuclei.
The finding shows how nearly two meters' worth of double-helical DNA gets packed into spaces much smaller than the human eye can see, about one hundredth of a millimetre in diameter.
Job Dekker of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who led the study, said that his team can locate any part of the genome within the whole structure, and that the picture they are drawing is the first glimpse people have ever had of the human genome in 3D.
He said that seeing the human genome in three dimensions allows scientists to see the way chromatin makes the molecules fold and affects the way genes are regulated.
Chromatin is the substance chromosomes are made of, composed of a combination of DNA and protein.
The study's co-first author, Erez Lieberman-Aiden of Harvard University, said that scientists have long known that DNA is a double helix on a small scale.
Dekker said that scientists see now that things that are far apart along the linear sequence of the genome are actually next to each other in the folded structure and that these dispersed parts of the genome talk to each other in a way that helps maintain cell health.
Health care may be drastically affected by the new glimpse of the human genome in 3D.
Dekker said that scientists might find the new 3D human genome allows them to more accurately predict the behaviour of diseases that have a genetic basis.
The researchers also found that the entire human genome can be classified as belonging to two separated groups.
Part of the genome is composed of inactive genes, and part of it is composed of active genes.
Human chromosomes weave in and out of the active and inactive genes, linking the two sections of the 3D chromosomes in a way that scientists had never observed before.
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