DNA on the Couch | Deborah L. Cabaniss, M.D.

February 20, 2015 4:26 PM

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Learning about histones has made me really excited about being a psychotherapist. What are histones, you ask? No, they're not long-lost Freudian artifacts or a new kind of music therapy. They are proteins that exist in all of our cells, around which DNA is wrapped. You probably know that DNA -- deoxyribonucleic acid -- is the chemical that makes up our genetic code. It exists in the nucleus, or command center, of all of our cells. If stretched out, the DNA of each cell would be about six feet long, which is not a practical form for fitting into a microscopic package. So the DNA folds around the histones, like thread wraps around spools, to create the super compact shapes that are our chromosomes. With me so far? OK -- let's keep going.

Sections of the DNA that determine the make-up of particular proteins are called genes. These proteins are the building blocks of everything in our body -- bones, brain, blood cells, etc. When the DNA folds, some genes are open or available to make proteins, and other are not. So the way that DNA wr...

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