3D Image Shows Chromosomes Look Completely Different To What You Think

If you can remember learning about chromosomes in biology class, you probably imagine them as a narrow X shape, representing a pair of joined chromatids before cell division.

According to a study published earlier this year, most of the time, the shape of a chromosome is actually a whole lot more complex.

The study, conducted by a team of physicists from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, was able to produce a detailed 3D image of a chromosome, visualising them in a way that has never been seen before.

Using a high resolution 3D imaging system, the researchers joined up multiple separate images of ‘genomic loci’ along DNA chains to form one single 3D image, showing a far more accurate representation of chromosomes than the classic X-shape you learned about in science class.

The study says that the 3D imaging can also show a small glimpse of transcription activity – the first stage of DNA replication – in the chromosomes.

The team plans to share their data online so other researchers can work to better understand not only the structure of chromosomes, but their function in our DNA.

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