Scientists reveal way to map vast unknown territory of long non-coding RNA

IMAGE: Communities of long non-coding RNAs. Mauro Calabrese and colleagues can now categorize long non-coding RNAs by their function to learn more about the roles of this type of RNA in… view more 

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Credit: Calabrese Lab, UNC School of Medicine

CHAPEL HILL, NC — Scientists from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have developed a powerful method for exploring the properties of mysterious molecules called long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), some of which have big roles in cancer and other serious conditions. Until now, scientists have lacked the proper methods for identifying the functions of the tens of thousands of different lncRNAs produced in human cells. So far they’ve characterized only a few hundred of these molecules – a tiny part of the vast terra incognita they represent.

Published in Nature Genetics, UNC scientists discovered a hidden code that relates the molecular makeup of lncRNAs to what they actually do, and the researchers developed an algorithm to quickly categorize lncRNAs by their likely functions.

“Long non-coding RNAs are part of what you might call the ‘dark matter’ of the genome, and this tool we’ve developed should help us understand much better how they work in health and disease,” said study senior author Mauro


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