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Gene regulation controls identity – and health

Welcome to the first Biomed Bites of 2015. We'll be continuing this series this year -- check each Thursday to meet more of Stanford's most innovative biomedical researchers.

Push play and prepare to blow away many of your preconceptions about genetics. 'Cause gene aren't the thing these days. At least not for Michael Snyder, PhD. He leads Stanford's genetics department and directs the Stanford Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine. Here's Snyder:

One of the things we've found is that our DNA has a lot more regulatory elements than people previously appreciated. In fact, there are more regulatory elements for genes than the genes themselves.

And that's not all. What makes you you, is, in fact, your regulatory elements, not so much your genes, which really aren't that different from those of a chimpanzee or that next-door neighbor you dislike.

Your health may also be governed by these regulatory elements, Snyder says:

This is going to be very, very powerful in a world where many people are getting their human genome sequences and trying to understand what diseases they might be at risk for or what diseases they have and what the underlying causes are.

This knowledge might lead to swifter diagnoses, or even prevent the disease from emerging at all.

Learn more about Stanford Medicine's Biomedical Innovation Initiative and about other faculty leaders who are driving biomedical innovation here.

Previously: Of mice and men: Stanford researchers compare mammals' genomes to aid human clinical research, Personal molecular profiling detects diseases earlier and  You say "protein interactions," I say "mosh pit": New insights on the dynamics of gene expression

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