Public Health Relevance

DNA is our genetic material that encodes all the genes that allow our cells to function. Our genomic DNA is kept in a compartment of the cell known as the nucleus. Over 6 feet of DNA is squeezed into this tiny space. The organization of the DNA in the nucleus is tightly controlled and determines which genes are turned on and turned off. The genes in a cell that are turned on guide the development and function of a cell, which affects our overall health. Abnormal nuclear DNA organization is associated with human diseases, such as cancer and early aging. How the DNA is organized within the nucleus and how this organization is controlled over time are not well understood because viewing the 3-dimensional (3D) shape of DNA in the tiny nucleus of a living cell in real time is extremely difficult.

The 4D Nucleome (4DN) Program is exploring the 3D organization of the DNA in the nucleus and how the organization changes over time (the fourth dimension). Exploring the 4D organization of DNA requires developing new tools to observe differences in the organization of DNA between different cells and how the organization in the nucleus of a single cell changes over time. Understanding the dynamic 4D organization of DNA will help researchers determine how changes in nuclear organization affect which genes are turned on and off and how abnormal nuclear organization interrupts cell development and function to cause human disease. The 4DN Program is working to allow the biomedical research community to identify new targets for treatment of human diseases that are caused by abnormal nuclear organization.

This page last reviewed on December 14, 2018