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Genes in a Haystack

Here’s how microarrays—or “gene chips”—are used in the search for errant genes.

By Rachael Moeller Gorman // Infographic by Flying Chilli // Summer 2007
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More than 99.9% of each person’s DNA is identical to that of every other person. It’s the less than 0.1% that makes us unique, determining hair color, eye color—and susceptibility to diseases. Many deadly illnesses result from mutations in multiple genes, and scientists have had little idea where in our 3.1-billion-base-pair genome to look. Now, with the completion of the Human Genome Project, the creation of a database of gene variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms [SNPs] and the invention of DNA microarrays that can hold 1 million SNPs, scientists can search for errant genes. Here’s how microarrays work, taking the example of schizophrenia research at Harvard and MIT.

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