Regulatory mechanisms driving limb formation identified for first time

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Molecular biologists have described for the first time the regulatory backups for two genes involved in mammalian limb formation. Understanding these redundancies, and how to bypass them, could be important for biomedical researchers wishing to manipulate gene activity to treat human diseases.

Genes may carry information for building proteins, but a host of other factors, including the DNA between genes that doesn’t encode proteins, tells them when to make their proteins. And this noncoding DNA plays a role in some diseases, studies have shown. Noncoding DNA includes stretches called enhancers, short sequences that help control a target gene. Geneticists have identified hundreds of thousands of potential enhancers in our genome, but verifying their role in DNA regulation and disease is difficult. “We still don’t have a good understanding of what [many do],” says Yang Li, a computational biologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

For the new study, molecular biologist Marco Osterwalder of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and colleagues used CRISPR to determine how these candidate enhancers work.

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Read full, original post: Biologists identify the backup systems that ensure genes build limbs

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