Scientists from the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern (CRI) have developed an innovative system to identify and characterize the molecular components that control the activities of regulatory DNA sequences in the human genome. The genome, which is the complete complement of human DNA, including all protein-coding genes, has nearly 3 billion base pairs. Despite its vast size, only 2 percent of our genome codes for proteins. The other 98 percent is comprised of noncoding regions that regulate where and when the protein-coding genes are activated. These noncoding regions have repeatedly been identified by human genetics and cancer genomic studies as potential drivers for human diseases such as cancer. A better understanding of these regulatory regions and the underlying principles that guide when genes are turned on and off is necessary to uncover how diseases develop and to find new treatments. However, the tools to identify these noncoding regions and to understand how they work are limited. They require the prior identification of the protein factors that regulate these regions, depend on the availability of reagents such as antibodies, and often need sophisticated genetic manipulations.
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