How much do you weigh? No, not your body weight (we are not here to judge) – but the weight of yours chromosomes, the X-shaped bundles with genetic instructions that make you you?
If you do not know in advance, then the researchers have covered you. Using one of Britain’s most powerful X-rays, a team of researchers recently measured the mass of the 46 human chromosomes.
The results were surprising: each chromosome was about 20 times heavier than DNA contained in them – a much larger mass than researchers expected, according to their study published March 31
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“Our measurement suggests that 46 chromosomes in each of our cells weigh 242 picograms (trillions of grams),” studied co-author Ian Robinson, a professor of physics at University College London. said in a statement. “This is heavier than we expect, and, if replicated, it points to unexplained excess mass in chromosomes.”
Each human cell normally contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. Within each chromosome, there is one DNA molecule and a host of proteins that have a number of functions, such as compressing your 6.5-foot (2-meter) DNA strands into teen packages that are small enough to fit into individual cells.
The US government-run Human Genome Project revealed, among other things, the mass of DNA molecules – however, the weight of the chromosomes that house these molecules was a mystery. Understanding this can lead to further insight into the complex structure of chromosomes, which are thoroughly studied by medical laboratories for things like cancer diagnoses, according to the researchers.
To calculate the mass of a standard set of 46 human chromosomes, the authors of the study used a technique called X-ray psychography – essentially creating a 3D model of the chromosomes by firing them with an extremely powerful X-ray beam at Britain’s Diamond Light Source Science Center in Oxfordshire. With this model, the researchers were able to calculate the exact number of electrons in each chromosome, so that the researchers could estimate the total mass of the chromosome.
The fact that chromosomes weigh 20 times more than the DNA in them confused the team; so far there is no good explanation for this “superfluous” mass, but further investigation may reveal the secrets buried under X.
Originally published on WordsSideKick.com.