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Catalog of DNA modifications produces surprises

New insight into Alzheimer’s, cancer, more comes from roadmap of epigenetic changes

11:51am, February 18, 2015
diagram of body parts

BODY MAP  Researchers mapped chemical tags on DNA in 111 different tissues and cells (including those pictured here). These chemical tags, or epigenetic marks, supply the directions needed to build a person from a parts list contained in DNA.

A series of fine-tuned maps of DNA packaging in human cells reveal dynamic new views of how the genome’s instructions are carried out to build a person. The maps also offer surprising insights into what goes wrong in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.

The maps and discoveries made after examining them are being published February 18 in more than 20 scientific papers in Nature and affiliated journals by a large consortium of researchers involved with the Roadmap Epigenomics Project.

Researchers in the project cataloged chemical modifications of DNA and its associated proteins in 111 types of human cells, including embryonic stem cells and cells from several stages of development. Those chemical modifications, called epigenetic marks, include the attachment of molecules, such as methyl groups or acetyl groups, to one of the histone proteins around

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