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Top Story

'LADL' uses light to serve up on-demand genome folding

Every cell in your body has a copy of your genome, tightly coiled and packed into its nucleus. Since every copy is effectively identical, the difference between cell types and their biological functions comes down to which, how and when the individual genes in the genome are expressed, or translated into proteins. Scientists are increasingly understanding the role that genome folding plays in this process. The way in which that linear sequence of genes are packed into the nucleus determines which genes come into physical contact with each other, which in turn influences gene expression. National Science Foundation-funded researchers have now demonstrated a new technique for quickly creating specific folding patterns on demand, using light as a trigger. The technique, known as LADL or light-activated dynamic looping, combines aspects of two other powerful biotechnological tools: CRISPR/Cas9 and optogenetics. By using the former to target the ends of a specific genome fold, or loop, and then using the latter to snap the ends together like a magnet, the researchers can temporarily create loops between exact genomic segments in a matter of hours.

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