3D Image Shows Chromosomes Look Completely Different To What You Think

by : Hannah Smith on : 19 Nov 2020 18:09
3D Image Shows Chromosomes Look Completely Different To What You Think3D Image Shows Chromosomes Look Completely Different To What You ThinkPA Images/Xiaowei Zhang Labs

If you can remember learning about chromosomes in biology class, you probably imagine them as a narrow X shape, representing a pair of joined chromatids before cell division.

The only problem with that is, it’s not actually how chromosomes look.


According to a study published earlier this year, most of the time, the shape of a chromosome is actually a whole lot more complex. The study, conducted by a team of physicists from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, was able to produce a detailed 3D image of a chromosome, visualising them in a way that has never been seen before.

Using a high resolution 3D imaging system, the researchers joined up multiple separate images of ‘genomic loci’ along DNA chains to form one single 3D image, showing a far more accurate representation of chromosomes than the classic X-shape you learned about in science class. After multiple attempts, they were able to capture about 2,000 of the loci per cell.

Xiaowei Zhang Lab

By creating this image, researchers hope that their work will help other researchers better understand and analyse these tiny molecules that make up our DNA.


Senior researcher Xiaowei Zhuang said:

It’s quite important to determine the 3D organisation… to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the organisation and to also understand how this organisation regulates genome function.

The study says that the 3D imaging can also show a small glimpse of transcription activity – the first stage of DNA replication – in the chromosomes.

The team plans to share their data online so other researchers can work to better understand not only the structure of chromosomes, but their function in our DNA.


Who knows what other things we think we know about ourselves could turn out to be wrong.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Most Read StoriesMost Read


Mysterious Monolith Like One Found In Utah Appears On Romanian Hill

Topics: Technology, Now


Science Alert
  1. Science Alert

    Chromosomes Don't Look The Way You Think. We Now Have a 3D Image of The Real Thing