Luke Caspian Jefferson
About Luke Caspian Jefferson
Luke Caspian Jefferson is a biologist with an interest in human origins. This field is where the modern research coming out of biology, DNA science, archeology and anthropology all seem to converge as we’re being presented with new discoveries on almost a weekly basis!
Luke notes that this is an extremely exciting time to be a scientist and is dedicating this blog to bridging the gap between the academic community and those outside of this realm with a no less growing interest in human origins as a way of better knowing themselves.
In this first article Luke Caspian Jefferson looks at trying to make sense of chromosomes and DNA, as these two words are sometimes used interchangeably by laymen while they actually represent quite different things.
DNA and Chromosomes
Let’s start with a basic working definition for each: chromosomes are the thread-like structures that act as the packaging for a molecule of DNA. Chromosomes have a constriction point and two arms, a “q” arm which is longer, and a “p” arm being shorter, and the overall shape of a chromosome helps determine the location of specific genes.
DNA is the actual hereditary material that takes up residence in both the nucleus of every cell in a person’s body and in the mitochondria. We’d be remiss if we did not include the long, less-pronounceable name for DNA being deoxyribonucleic acid.
Understanding How Chromosomes Tie with DNA
There are lots of fascinating questions about DNA that are still unanswered. One of the major questions is exactly how do long strands of DNA organize themselves to fit into microscopic cells without affecting the alignment of chromosomes?
Just a slight misalignment could create imperfections and hinder development – it’s marvelous how those stands organize themselves so flawlessly.
Thanks to researchers from the Johns Hopkins University, we are one step closer to understanding this fascinating question.
Exploring the DNA buzz with flies
A team of biologists recently studied flies to try and get a better idea of exactly how chromosomes meet. The findings were published in the Development Cell journal this month and Luke Caspian Jefferson believes those findings could help us to better understand human development.
The researchers discovered that the chromosomes within flies come together in a way that really resembles buttons entering a buttonhole. The researchers found that if the chromosomes meet in an intended way, the fly will function as expected.
Misalignments in terms of that pairing lead to a range of defects, though. Those defects could affect the eyesight of the fly and cause antennae to be replaced by legs, for instance.
The study found that some chromosomes in the fly buttoned together more easily than others. In the eye of the fly, for instance, the researches saw that potential issues were corrected.
The antenna was far more complex, though, and faults here would lead to more dramatic mutations. Some of the test subjects would grow a leg instead of an antenna, for instance.
What does this mean for us?
Human DNA is naturally far more complex than that of a fly. However, the researchers understand that this dynamic of chromosome buttoning happens across species. Researchers believe that the findings from this study could give us a better insight into how genetic anomalies lead to disease in human beings.
The scope of the research is very exciting indeed. Kayla Viets was the lead author and she explained that we have almost no idea how DNA within the human body folds itself into such a compact form. In fact, it is estimated that the DNA within the human body would line up to measure around one meter.
Viets went on to explain that this buttoning dynamic is just one way that DNA compacts itself. This study is a critical first step to properly understanding the process.
Luke notes that this is a very exciting piece of research indeed. Bob Johnston is a senior author on the paper and he explained that the study “adds one piece to the puzzle” when it comes to understanding how DNA folds together to protect genes to ensure optimal functionality.
While flies are smaller and much simpler than human beings, the findings from this study could play a pivotal role in changing the way that we explore the organization of chromosomes in the nucleus. This could help us to better understand genetic anomalies and how they could potentially be adjusted.
More Research from Luke Caspian Jefferson
Luke will continue to write about DNA, human origins, and biology research on this blog. If you like what you’re reading please subscribe for frequent updates!