12 July

New technology to analyse folding of DNA

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A team of researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (prof. Wouter de Laat) and the Center for Molecular Medicine of the UMC Utrecht (dr. ir. Jeroen de Ridder) has developed a new technology with which loops in DNA can be mapped in much more detail than was possible before. This is important in understanding how healthy and disease-causing genes are regulated.

In each cell of the body around two meters of DNA is folded. The way DNA is folded in a cell plays an important role in the regulation of genes. The DNA contains switches (”enhancers”) that can turn a gene on or off. This happens when these switches get into contact with genes via a loop in the DNA. Studying these switches is important because the misregulation of genes can contribute to the development of genetic diseases like cancer. With new techniques it is possible to determine the simultaneous interaction between multiple switches. De Laat and De Ridder have published about this in Nature Genetics on the 9th of July. The technique they have developed is called Multi-Contact Chromatin Conformation Capture (MC-4C).

A better understanding of genes

MC-4C improves our understanding of the regulation of genes. This offers opportunities to discover how diseased cells lose control over the activity of their genes. “These new techniques allow us to study how not only one but a combination of these switches can deregulate our cells,” explains De Ridder. “A precise image of the way in which the DNA is folded is crucial in understanding the development of diseases, such as cancer, better.”