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Until now, researchers have relied on outdated methods of analysis to identify those DNA sequences involved in controlling when and how individual genes are expressed. Most often, those methods – capable of probing only specific, limited regions of the genome arising from a type of experiment called DNA microarrays – led to the exclusive scrutiny of regions called promoters nestled near the start of the gene.

In contrast, the new Stanford-developed, web-based algorithm allows scientists to plumb the unprecedented depths of the data provided by new “deep-sequencing” techniques to reveal a pantheon of control regions for nearly any gene. The effect is like expanding a researcher’s field of vision from a pencil-thin beam of light trained mainly on the regions near coding sequences to a sweeping spotlight illuminating the contributions of distant genomic regions.

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