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They shall decipher the second genetic code

Today, we know a great deal about the elements of our DNA that code the bodys different proteins. However, researchers do not yet know exactly how the genes that control the expression of proteins work. A group of researchers at the Karolinska Institutet will now attempt to understand the regulatory code.

You need to know two different codes in order to read and understand the human genome. The first is the code stored in the DNA strand and which determines the order of amino acids in the bodys different proteins. Although only a few of the proteins that the genes code are formed, for example, in a nerve cell at a certain time. Therefore, the second code, the regulatory, is also very important. The regulatory code determines which genes are read at a particular time and with that, which proteins are produced.

Better knowledge about diseased cells

Understanding the regulatory code has proved to be a challenge. The code in the cell is read by a specific group of proteins, transcription factors, which recognise and bind to specific sections of the DNA strand. While most transcription factors have been identified, the knowledge of which sections of the DNA strand they bind to is very limited. A great deal suggests that the transcription factors also bind to each other at the same time as they bind to DNA, which makes the regulatory code even more complex.

"When we know how the gene expression is controlled, the next step will be to create a model of how combinations of different factors regulate the gene expression in normal cells and, for example, in cancer cells. Hopefully results will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms that lead to diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease", says Jussi Tiapale.