Most of us have studied either chemistry or biology as a subject from our high school years. So we know very well how a chromosome in our body is represented in a diagram or pictorially. Majority of us will say that a chromosome is a tall, thin entity shaped like a X. It is formed when two chromatids join together after the DNA replicates, before the end of cell division. It is the time when each chromatid separates to make its own chromosome.
Is chromosome structure different than we think?
It is at least what we used to think, until now. There seems to be a small error with such kind of a depiction of a chromosome, scientists state, at least when it comes to the accuracy of the depiction. Physician-scientist Jun-Han Su, formerly of Harvard University says, “Most of the time (about 90%), chromosomes don’t actually exist in such a way.”
In their study, Su and his colleagues formulated a new method to image the 3D organization of the chromatin present in our cells. It provided a highly detailed understanding of the chromosomal structure unlike the X depiction. Senior researcher Xiaowei Zhuang says, “It is vital to establish the 3D organization to study the mechanisms at molecular level that form its basis and to also know how it controls the duties of the genes.”
The researchers visualized chromosomes in a much detailed manner unlike ever, and also glimpsed at features of transcription activity. All of this was made possible by using a new high-resolution 3D imaging system. It consisted of linking numerous snaps of genomic loci along the chains of human DNA. The research team has decided to share their research findings on web so that other interested individuals like them can perform further analysis. It will enable us to study this nearly invisible feature of ourselves in a more detailed manner in the upcoming years. The findings are reported in Cell.