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Scientists map out regulatory regions of genome, hot spots for diabetes genes
Date:2/2/2010

CHAPEL HILL Together with colleagues in Barcelona, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have generated a complete map of the areas of the genome that control which genes are "turned on" or "off." The discovery, made in pancreatic islet cells, opens new avenues for understanding the genetic basis of type 2 diabetes and other common illnesses.

"Most of the human genome is uncharted territory entire stretches of sequence with no clear function or purpose," said Jason Lieb, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at UNC, a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and one of the senior authors of the study. "In fact, the majority of the DNA sequences associated with disease found thus far reside in the middle of nowhere. Here we have developed a map that can guide scientists to regions of the genome that do appear to be functionally relevant, instead of a dead end."

The research, published online Jan. 31, 2010, in the journal Nature Genetics, presents the first high-resolution atlas of these regulatory elements in the most studied cell type for treatment and prevention of type II diabetes.

The completion of the human genome project has spurred a flurry of research into the exact genetic changes underlying disease. But while these studies have discovered thousands of sequences associated with human illness, pinpointing which sequence variations are the true culprits has proven difficult. That is because the underlying genetic sequence the A, C, T, and G that code for your entire being is only part of the story. It is not just the message, but the packaging whether those four letters are laid out like an open book or tightly packaged like a message in a bottle that determine which genes are active and which are not.

Using a new method developed in the Lieb laboratory called FAIRE-seq, Lieb and his colleagues isolated and sequenced a total of 80,000 open chromatin sites withi
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Contact: Tom Hughes
tahughes@unch.unc.edu
919-966-6047
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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