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Studying transposable elements in genomes

 

Narrator:       This is Science Today. Fifty percent of the human genome is derived from transposable elements, also known as "jumping genes" because they move from one location in the genome to another. But when genomes are sequenced, transposable elements are often taken out so people can just look at the genes. Genetics professor Susan Wessler of the University of California, Riverside, says there's a lot of interesting things in transposable elements and her lab is focusing on them. 

Wessler:        What they do is diversify, they make genomes different. So, by jumping into genes or near genes, they can alter the way these genes are expressed. So, now we're just really in the stages of understanding what they are, we're identifying them and we're starting to figure out how they in fact create genetic diversity. That's what the research in my lab is about — how do transposable elements contribute to the diversity that is needed by a species to adapt to changes in the environment, for example.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.