Chinese scientists make chromatin breakthrough

Updated: 2014-05-07 09:24

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)

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Chinese scientists make chromatin breakthrough

The new discovery of DNA's structure by Chinese scientists will provide key information for unanswered genetic questions. [Photos provided to China Daily]

Chinese scientists have announced their findings on the secondary structure of chromatin, the pattern by which the human body is formed. Cheng Yingqi reports.

On April 25, 1953, a seminal article was published in Nature magazine detailing the distinct double-helix structure of DNA, allowing humans to have a first look at how living organisms are developed from their genetic blueprint.

However, the double-helix structure of DNA seemed unlikely to be the whole story to explain the complexity of life.

"If DNA is the building block of life, the double-helix structure only allows us to know the shape of the brick that builds the mansion of the human body," says Zhou Dejin, spokesman for the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"But there is no way yet to know the inner structure of the building, like how the bricks were constructed into walls and what is the shape of each room."

On April 25, 61 years after the discovery of DNA's structure, scientists from the academy announced their findings on the 30-nanometer chromatin fiber, the secondary structure of chromatin in Science magazine, leading us closer to the pattern the "bricks" are pieced together with.

Each human cell possesses a nucleic acid molecule that could form a 2-meter-long line. That is to say, with about 50 trillion cells, every one of us has a DNA molecule with a total length 600 times to the distance between the sun and the Earth.

The only reason we are lucky enough to maintain our average figure is that the DNA molecule folds in certain paths to become 10,000-fold shorter than its extended length.

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