Scientists map a complicated ballet performed in our cells

phys.org | 8/8/2018 | Staff
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This figure demonstrates the organization process of a chromosome. Chromosome Droplets are formed during this process and act as a basic packaging unit of the chromosome. Their structures are maintained by the glassiness of the chromosome. In this image, the red and blue are repressive and active loci, respectively. Credit: The University of Texas at Austin.

For years, scientists have looked at human chromosomes, and the DNA they carried, poring over the genetic code that makes up every cell for clues about everything from our eye color to congenital diseases. In a new study, however, scientists have demonstrated the movement of chromosomes within cells also may play a role in human traits and health.

Paper - Nature - Communications - Scientists - University

In a paper just published in Nature Communications, scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have mapped the movement of a chromosome for the first time, using computer modeling to show how billions of base pairs of DNA get packed into an impossibly small space without getting tangled. The movement is sluggish and glass-like, differing from one cell type to the next and even among cells of the same type. Understanding this movement better could have big implications for the study of genetic diseases, human health and gene editing.

"Rather than the structure, we chose to look at the dynamics to figure out not only how this huge amount of genetic information is packaged, but also how the various loci move," said Dave Thirumalai, chair of UT Austin's chemistry department. "We learned it is not just the genetic code you have to worry about. If the timing of the movement is off, you could end up with functional aberrations."

Thirumalai - Guang - Shi - Author - Graduate

Thirumalai, along with Guang Shi, lead author and graduate student at the University of Maryland, looked at how two distinct chromosomes move. In a computer model, one chromosome starts out...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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