A new imaging technique captures the structure of the human genome with unprecedented fidelity, revealing how individual genes fold at the nucleosome level – the fundamental units that make up the genome’s three-dimensional architecture.
The method combines high-resolution microscopy with advanced computational modeling. It is the most comprehensive method for studying the shape of genes developed to date.
The new technology allows researchers to create and virtually navigate three-dimensional models of genes, visualizing their structures and details on how they move or how flexible they are. Because genes are involved in almost every human disease, understanding how they work could lead to a better understanding of how they affect the human body in health and disease.
Scientists will eventually be able to use this information to predict what happens to genes when things go wrong, such as cataloging variations in the shape of genes that cause disease. The human genome imaging technology could also be useful to test drugs that alter the shape of an abnormal gene, assisting in the discovery of new treatments for various diseases.
The research team is already using the technology by looking into genes involved in human development. The team will also continue to improve the technology, such as detecting how transcription factors – proteins involved in converting or transcribing DNA into RNA – bind to DNA.