U of A researchers discover one of our cellular building blocks acts as a gel, not liquid as previously believed

Ryan O’Byrne - 12 January 2021

University of Alberta researchers have found an answer to a fundamental question in genomic biology that has eluded scientists since the discovery of DNA: Within the nucleus of our cells, is the complex package of DNA and proteins called chromatin a solid or a liquid?

In a study published in the journal Cell, the research team, led by Professor Michael Hendzel of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and collaborator Jeffrey Hansen from Colorado State University, found that chromatin is neither a solid nor a liquid, but something more like a gel. 

Previously, fields such as biochemistry operated under the assumption that chromatin and other elements of the nucleus operated in a liquid state, Hendzel said. This new understanding of the physical properties of chromatin challenges that idea, and could lead to a more accurate understanding of how the genome is encoded and decoded. 

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