Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Only half of a chromosome is DNA, 3-D imaging reveals

In a study conducted byscientists at the University of Edinburgh- in collaboration with the Kazusa DNA Research Institute (Japan), the National Cancer Institute (US), and the University of Liverpool- it was found that nearly half of the chromosome is not made up of DNA and supporting proteins. Instead, up to 47 percent of their structures are made up of a sheath, or periphery, that surrounds the chromosome. It is speculated that this sheath plays a key role in the cell division in isolating the chromosome.

In order to come to this new data, researchers produced 3-D models of all the 46 chromosomes using a precise microscopy technique called 3D-CLEM. 3D-CLEM uses light and electronmicroscopy with computational modelling software to produce a high resolution3D image of chromosomes. It was found that 53-70 percent of the chromosome is made up of DNA and supporting proteins while 30-47 percent is made up of chromosome periphery.

This work is remarkable because it challenges the previous knowledge of the composition of a chromosome. With this new understanding, new avenues will be opened when it comes to understanding cell division and the role of the mysterious sheath in preventing disease and birth defects.


This article was really interesting because for as long as I can remember, I have been taught that chromosomes are made of genetic material and protein, that’s it. I am curious to see what findings this research team will stumble upon next so that we can all gain a greater understanding of DNA and our genetic code. I do believe however that the sheath’s purpose is probably just protection so that the DNA can have a buffer between them and the other contents of the cell.

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