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The development of an adult organism starts with a fertilized egg that differentiates into hundreds of specialized cell types contained in tissues and organs. How these cell fate changes happen is intensely investigated all over the world. What we know is that all our cells contain the same genetic information, therefore development involves the selective regulation of genes contained in the DNA. The proteins that turn on or off these genes are called transcription factors. Similar mechanisms operate when a stem cell in the adult body, such as the blood stem cell, specializes into cell types needed for different functions. To ensure correct gene regulation additional kinds of proteins are required, such as enzymes that modify proteins that wrap around the DNA or even the DNA itself, thus fine tuning this complex process. Interestingly, alterations of these proteins due to mutations leads to aberrant gene regulation and often results in the formation of cancer.

In a paper published in Cell Stem Cell, researchers at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) led by Thomas Graf in collaboration with scientists from the Institut de Biologie de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and from CNAG-CRG and Harvard Medical School, studied this complex

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