February 25, 2015
Single-letter genetic variations within parts of the genome once dismissed as “junk DNA” can increase cancer risk through remote effects on far-off genes, new research by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London shows.
The researchers found that DNA sequences within “gene deserts” — so called because they are completely devoid of genes — can regulate gene activity elsewhere by forming DNA loops across relatively large distances.
The study helps solve a mystery about how genetic variations in parts of the genome that don’t appear to be doing very much can increase cancer risk.
Their study, published in Nature Communications, also has implications for the study of other complex genetic diseases.