Inherited genes play a crucial role in how we develop, yet how and when they are accessed inside our cells is equally important. This computer model of our DNA storage system, chromatin, shows DNA arranged along a 'skeleton' of histone proteins (artificially coloured red and green), helping it to coil up tightly inside our cells’ nuclei. Different chromatin regions, coloured in blue, orange and purple, are twisted around each other, a bit like a balloon animal (although 500,000 times smaller). Its shape may look familiar – the chromatin’s twists and bends form a double helix, similar to the spiralling structure of DNA itself. There could be clues here to how chromatin is remodelled at different points in our lives, changing which genes can and can’t be accessed – an example of epigenetic regulation which is greatly affected by lifestyle and disease.
Written by John Ankers
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