Small DNA circles discovered outside the chromosomes in mammalian cells and tissues, including human cells
DNA is usually coiled tightly into chromosomes. These newly discovered microDNA circles are NOT attached to chromosomes, but are created when segments of DNA are excised from the coding and control regions in somatic cells, creating micro-deletions, possibly leading to disease.
The researchers theorize that future work in this area could lead to new knowledge about the causes of autism or schizophrenia, which may be due to incorrect functioning of certain genes in brain tissue.
Microdeletions in protective genes, such as tumour suppressors, could render them inactive and thus reduce protections against cancer, so this discovery is relevant to cancer research.
New discoveries in basic science mechanisms like this are fascinating, informing lots of different fields of biology! Way cool!