Scientists ID Over 3,000 Long Non-Coding RNA (lncRNA) Genes That May Offer Insights into Development of Human Immune System; Findings Provide “Huge and Unique Resource for the Whole Immunology Community”

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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