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Old Model

Pinpointing when during evolution chromatin modification began to play a role in regulating gene activity

27 June 2022

Old Model

Our precious DNA is wrapped up in spools in the cell nucleus, forming a protective structure called chromatin that unravels to grant access to certain genes. While controlling chromatin is important in animals, just how far back in our evolution it features is a little mysterious. Here, researchers explore a chromatin-controlling protein called lysine-specific demethylase 1 (Lsd1) in an ancient ancestor – Nematostella vectensis – pictured under a high-powered microscopy with its cells highlighted in blue. Animal evolution parted ways with cnidaria like Nematostella millions of years ago (they are over 500-million years old) but evidently, we still share some tricks. Using CRISPR gene editing technology to 'remove' Lsd1, scientists reveal an essential role for chromatin in developing early neural cells (purple and green). As an ancient model organism, Nematostella might hold clues to how human chromatin changes in various diseases and at different stages of our lives.

Written by John Ankers

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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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