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New insight into craniofacial development

Narrator:       This is Science Today. The human face is as unique as a fingerprint. And while genetics naturally play a role in the similarities between parents and their kids, the genetic drivers of normal craniofacial variation are poorly understood. Now, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have shown that gene enhancers, which regulate DNA sequences that can turn on or amplify the expression of a certain gene, are major players in craniofacial development.

Visel:             This was only the first step, getting this large map of thousands of enhancers, but then for about 200 of them, we followed them up in more detail. We were trying to find out what exactly they do because, obviously, the face is a very complex structure.

Narrator:       Staff scientist Axel Visel says understanding this in more detail may eventually help human geneticists perform targeted searches for mutations that can result in craniofacial birth defects.

Visel:             There are many of these birth defects where we don't know what's going on at the genetic level.

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