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Home / Science / Researchers at Harvard capture high-resolution 3D images of human chromosomes

Researchers at Harvard capture high-resolution 3D images of human chromosomes

The team started building a chromosomal map from wide-lens images for all 46 chromosomes, including close-ups on one section of one chromosome by using their new high-resolution 3D imaging method

science Updated: Nov 21, 2020, 19:39 IST
hindustantimes.com | Edited by Ayshee Bhaduri
hindustantimes.com | Edited by Ayshee Bhaduri
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Harvard Researcher Xiaowei Zhuang along with her team, has determined how DNA structure influences behavior in either maintaining proper function or possibly causing disease with the help of their new high-resolution 3D imaging method.

The team started building a chromosomal map from wide-lens images for all 46 chromosomes, including close-ups on one section of one chromosome by using their new high-resolution 3D imaging method.

Professor Xiaowei Zhuang is best known for her work in the development of Stochastic Optical Reconstruction Microscopy (STORM), a super-resolution fluorescence microscopy method, and is a researcher in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and the Department of Physics at Harvard University.

Why is it pathbreaking?

By deploying this technology Professor Xiaowei and team made visual representation of about 2,000 chromatin loci per cell, marking more than a tenfold increase over previous work and potent enough to form a high-resolution image of what the structure of chromosomes looks like in its endemic habitat. They also made visual representations of transcription activity (when RNA replicates genetic material from DNA) and nuclear structures like nucleoli and nuclear speckles

To replace the damaged cells all living beings create new ones by replicating the old DNA. The DNA of a single cell can extend to 6ft in length

With their 3D Google Maps of the genome, they could start to analyze how the structure shifts over time and how those territorial movements help or hurt cell division and replication.

With their high-resolution visuals, the team at Harvard determined that areas with lots of genes tend to congregate in similar areas on any chromosome. However areas with few genes only come together if they share the same chromosome.

One theory is that gene-rich areas, which are active sites for gene transcription, come together like a factory to enable more efficient production.

The team has also discovered that no two chromosomes look identical even in cells that are otherwise so.

The most groundbreaking conclusion that the team has arrived at is that the local chromatin environment impacts transcription activity, hence structure does influence function. Transcription factors often determine how a cell develops and which proteins it produces in what quantities. DNA segment to which a transcription factor binds itself can assume various territorial arrangements. As a result, it alters the structure of the transcription factor itself and controls its activity

While more work in this field is needed but the team at Harvard has done a great service to the world of Science through their diligent research.Dr.Xiaowei was quoted by Sci News saying that “It’s not going to be possible to build just on our work. We need to build on many, many labs’ work in order to have a comprehensive understanding,”

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