Science has done it again. A group of researchers has just taken a significant step in understanding the human genome by decoding the entire Y chromosome. With this achievement, scientists could gain better insights into their research on various health issues, including male infertility.
As reported by CNN, the group of researchers unveiled the complete sequence of the human Y chromosome last Wednesday, one of the two sex chromosomes that is usually passed from fathers to male offspring. The Y chromosome is the last of the 24 chromosomes in the human genome to be sequenced.
In general, humans have a pair of sex chromosomes in each cell. Individuals born as males have one Y chromosome and one X chromosome, while individuals born as females have two X chromosomes (with some exceptions).
The primary function of the Y chromosome is to regulate crucial reproductive functions in males, such as sperm production (called “spermatogenesis”), although it also plays a role in cancer risk and severity. Until now, deciphering this chromosome has been a major challenge for scientists due to its incredibly complex structure.
“Just a few years ago, half of the human Y chromosome was missing,” says Monika Cechova, a postdoctoral fellow in Molecular Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and co-author of the study published in the scientific journal Nature.
“At that time, we didn’t even know if it could be sequenced; it was very perplexing,” Cechova added. “This is truly a huge shift in what is possible.”
“I would attribute it to new sequencing technologies and computational methods,” says Arang Rhie, a scientist at the National Human Genome Research Institute in the United States and the lead author of the research article.
The research unveils characteristics of regions of the Y chromosome with medical relevance, including a stretch of DNA (the molecule that carries genetic information for the development and functioning of an organism) containing several genes involved in sperm production.
According to the researchers, this comprehensive knowledge of Y chromosome genes could be applied to highly relevant investigations, such as male fertility issues.
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