What is gene regulation?

When an injury occurs, cells can activate new genes to carry out the repair.

Gene regulation is a process in which a cell determines which genes it will express and when. There are several reasons why organisms, from single-celled animals to blue whales, engage in this process, and gene regulation is a topic of interest to some researchers interested in learning more about how the process works and what happens when it goes wrong. .

Gene regulation is a process in which a cell determines which genes it will express and when.

One of the easiest ways to illustrate gene regulation is to talk about it in humans. Every cell in the human body contains a complete copy of that person’s DNA, with tens of thousands of potentially viable genes. All these genes cannot be expressed at once, so cells must decide which genes to turn on and which to turn off. For example, a skin cell turns on the genes that make it a skin cell, while a bone cell would turn those genes off. None of these cells would need the genes that allow a cell to differentiate into a neuron, so those genes would also be left out.

In addition to being useful for cell differentiation, gene regulation is also valuable for cell function. As a cell moves through its life, it has different needs and functions, which can be met by using this process to determine which genes are expressed and when. Likewise, cells can adapt to environmental changes, such as an injury that requires repair by activating new genes. For the cell, gene regulation can be carried out in several different ways, one of the most common being simply regulation of the rate of RNA transcription. Genes can also be turned off by altering the structure of DNA in an individual cell to turn them on or off.

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Single-celled organisms also use this process to regulate their functions and activities. These organisms must be able to adapt genetic material quickly to adjust to new circumstances and new environments, since failure to do so will cause not only the death of the cell, but the death of the organism itself. Gene regulation allows such organisms to do things that will allow them to adapt to harsh and extreme environments and adapt to changes, such as introducing antibiotics into their environment.

There are potential therapeutic applications for the process as well. By knowing which genes are involved in a cancer or genetic condition, for example, it is theoretically possible to turn off those genes so that they cannot be active in the body.

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