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Pack it In

New technique allows how DNA is organised in living cells to be visualised and analysed

22 September 2021

Pack it In

There’s an incredible two metres of DNA packed into almost every cell of your body, each containing all 20,000 or so genes that are needed to make a human body and keep it functioning. Not only is it a significant biological packing problem to get all this DNA inside the nucleus (the structure inside cells where DNA is stored), but it also has to be organised and rearranged when genes are switched on or off. However, most techniques for studying DNA rely on using dead cells that have been treated with various chemicals and processes, which doesn’t necessarily give a realistic picture of what’s going on. Created using a new technique that enables researchers to simulate (top) and visualise (bottom) DNA in living cells, these images show various arrangements of DNA inside the nuclei of cells from a fruit fly embryo, providing intriguing insights into the inner workings of life.

Written by Kat Arney

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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