Skip to Content

All Wound Up

Figuring out which genes are active and which aren’t – in, say, an organ or a group of cells – is critical for both basic biological research and the development of treatments for diseases like cancer. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have developed a way to simultaneously assess, for a given biological sample, the activity of all the genes in the genome, based on how tightly their DNA is wound. DNA spends much of its time coiled up; when a gene is turned on, its segment of the coil unwinds. Biophysicist Harold Garner says he has devised a way to separate coiled DNA from DNA that’s “loose and free.” His team then uses DNA microarrays to determine which genes are in the open group – and therefore active. The technique could help uncover the secrets of a host of diseases, Garner says. The researchers, for instance, are using it to find out how cancer drugs affect gene activity. “This will allow us to hopefully tune some of those drugs and identify new drugs that may work better,” Garner says.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Every year, we look for promising technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that we think matter most right now.

Scientists are finding signals of long covid in blood. They could lead to new treatments.

Faults in a certain part of the immune system might be at the root of some long covid cases, new research suggests.

AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.

What’s next for AI in 2024

Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.