Texas A&M research opens doors to expanded DNA studies
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IMAGE: Dr. Wonmuk Hwang, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University, is researching the mechanics of DNA, the blueprint of the human body. Hwang and his… view more 

Credit: Texas A&M

Dr. Wonmuk Hwang, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University, is researching the mechanics of DNA, the blueprint of the human body.

Hwang and his former doctoral student, Dr. Xiaojing Teng, zoomed into the question: if the genetic information is the same in all cells, as it should be, why do muscle cells look and act differently than skin cells?

“To selectively turn on and off different genes to determine the cell type, you need to modify this gene expression, and one way to do that is to chemically modify DNA,” Hwang said.

A major way the body achieves this is through methylation, where methyl groups stick to a particular location in DNA, so that the group blocks the genetic information in this region from being read by the cell. In addition, methylation affects local flexibility of DNA, which in turn controls how DNAs are packaged into chromosomes. While these processes were generally known, how methylation affects DNA’s

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