Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

CHROMOS: zoom into the 3D structure of our chromosomes

Babraham Institute scientsts (Stefan Schoenfelder, Csilla Varnai, Stephen Wingett, Stephen Wingett, Varun Kothmachu, Tauanna Amarante, Zahra Fahmi, Lina Dobnikar, Marco Michalski, Stephen Bevan, Jonathan Cairns, Boo Virk and Mikhail Spivakov) were joined by digital artist Andy Lomas and science communicator Kat Arney at the Hidden Rooms in Cambridge on Monday 13th March 2017. 

The event description in the Cambridge science Festival programme was:

What makes you, you? Why are some people more susceptible to diseases or infections than others? It all begins with your DNA, your genome, a complete set of instructions and all the information needed to build and maintain you.

Your DNA is a chemical sequence which is contained in chromosomes. Chromosomes are most commonly depicted as X-shaped ‘blobs’ found in the nucleus of a cell. However, researchers at the Babraham Institute developed a new technique which has allowed them to get a more accurate three dimensional picture of how the DNA folds within the chromosome. Your DNA is dynamic, constantly changing in shape – most of the time it’s not in the familiar X-shape.

But, why does it do this? Why is this important? Why do Babraham Institute researchers study it? Our genomes contain all our genes which influence, contribute to, or control nearly all aspects of our daily lives, from our health, well-being and longevity, to our aptitude for learning and our adaption and responses to diet, drugs and the environment. Our researchers have discovered that the way our genome folds plays a big role in turning genes on and off, deciding which genes are expressed, and by how much. We are trying to build an understanding of how chromosome structure and interactions between distant regions of the genome regulate genes and make us who we are.

Working with Max Cooper and Andy Lomas has allowed Babraham Institute researchers to explore the chromosome architecture and interactions through an audio-visual experience, and now you can explore chromosome interactions too.

Photographs by Graham CopeKoga © Babraham Institute 2017