Tiny, transient loops of genetic material, detected and studied by the hundreds at Brown University, provide insights into how the body transcribes DNA and splices (or mis-splices) those transcripts into the instructions needed for making proteins. The lasso-shaped genetic snippets — called lariats — are byproducts of gene transcription. Until now scientists had found fewer than 100 lariats, mostly by poring over very small selections of introns, which are sections of genetic code that do not directly code for proteins, but contain important signals that direct the way protein-coding regions are assembled. In their study, Brown biologists report finding more than 800 lariats in a publicly available set of billions of RNA reads derived from human tissues.
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