See Inside February 2011

The Inner Life of the Genome

The way our genes are arrayed and move in the 3-D space of the cell nucleus turns out to profoundly influence how they function, in both health and disease

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Ten years ago publication of the human genome sequence gave the world a blueprint for a human being. But just as a list of automobile parts does not tell us how a car engine works, the complete genome sequence—a list of the DNA “letters” in all the chromosomes of the human cell—did not reveal how the genome directs our cells’ day-to-day activities or allows an individual to develop from a fertilized egg into a functioning adult.

To better understand the way the genome as a whole orchestrates the symphony of biological activity called life, I and others in the new field of genome cell biology are examining how chromosomes, and the genes they house, are arranged within the three-dimensional space of the nucleus and how that organization influences their activities.

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