Scientists at the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research have discovered more than 3,000 previously unknown genes in a poorly understood part of the genome. These genes, found in rare cells in the bone marrow and thymus, give scientists a new understanding of how the human immune system develops. The findings were published online on October 26, 2015 in Nature Immunology. The article is titled “Long Non-Coding RNA Profiling of Human Lymphoid Progenitor Cells Reveals Transcriptional Divergence of B Cell and T Cell Lineages.” “The genes we found are called long non-coding RNAs, or lncRNAs,” said Gay Crooks (photo), M.D., Co-Director of the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center, a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and co-senior author of the Nature Immunology study. “They make up much of what we used to think of as the ‘dark matter’ of our genome because, unlike the better-known messenger RNA genes, they do not produce [code for the production of] proteins. The function of lncRNAs is not well-known, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that they are not inert; they have a critical role in controlling how other genes function,” she said. Researchers used the UCLA Broad Stem Cell Research Center’s state-of-the-art cell isolation and genetic sequencing technologies, and sophisticated bioinformatics to identify the elusive lncRNA genes. The team was led by Dr. Crooks, co-senior author Chintan Parekh, M.D., (now with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles), and first author David Casero, Ph.D. The team isolated rare blood-forming stem cells and progenitor cells from adult human bone marrow and thymus gland tissue. They then separated the genetic information in the cells using sequencing technology. Lastly, Dr.
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