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Many biologists continually seek a better view of chromosomes. Their generally twisted and tangled state, however, defies most simple approaches to visualizing this structure. As the authors explain, a technique called molecular combing can neatly arrange chromosomes in straight lines along a piece of glass. Specific sequences of stretched DNA can then be marked with fluorescent labels. They have applied this combination of techniques to several problems, including measuring the distance between gene loci, detecting deletions that arise in many disease states, revealing the temporal and spatial pattern of DNA replication and finding chromosomal amplifications associated with oncogenes, which promote cell transformations in cancer. Through these applications and others, molecular combing promises improved views of many aspects of chromosomes.
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