"3D Epigenetics" Helps Understand How Genome Folding Influences Our Body
The University of Pennsylvania
bioengineers have devised a new technology that uses light at boths ends of a
genome beaded string and foling it into specific shapes so that certain genes
are in direct physical contact with each other. The science of genomic shape
manipulation is called "3D Epigenetics".
Phillips-Cremins, assistant professor at Penn Engineering hope to determine how
different configurations lead to different combinations of genes that are
expressed in our body. The light-triggered folding method, known as
light-activated dynamic looping (LADL), can fold genomes into specific loops in
a matter of hours. The loops are temporary and can be easily undone. Since
prior research from the Phillips-Cremins lab indicates that these looping
mechanisms may play a role in some neurodevelopmental diseases, this speedy new
folding tool may one day be of use in further research or even treatments.
It is critical to understand the genome structure-function relationship on short timescales because the spatiotemporal regulation of gene expression is essential to faithful human development and because the mis-expression of genes often goes wrong in human disease, Phillips-Cremins says. “The engineering of genome topology with light opens up new possibilities to understanding the cause-and-effect of this relationship. Moreover we anticipate that, over the long term, the use of light will allow us to target specific human tissues and even to control looping in specific neuron subtypes in the brain."