Scientists from the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford University have developed a method that allows them to see, with far greater accuracy, how DNA forms large scale structures within a cell nucleus.

DNA molecule

This breakthrough will improve understanding of how differences in DNA sequences can lead to increased risks of developing many different diseases.

The method, which is around 1000 times more accurate than existing techniques, enables scientists to measure the contacts between different pieces of DNA, which are a million base pairs apart to the nearest base pair. This is the equivalent of being able to measure contacts in the DNA fibre that are 1km apart to the nearest millimetre.

Put another way, if each letter of DNA was the size of a brick, each cell would contain roughly the number of bricks in a city (6 billion). Scientists are now able to work out which bricks are next to each other, and see the fine details of how DNA forms structures inside cells, when previously they could only see the DNA “architecture” on the scale of small buildings.

Read the full story on the Radcliffe Department of Medicine website

The story is also featured on the University of Oxford website

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