‘Mobile DNA and Human Disease’: A Summary

Transposable elements constitute half of the human genome and recent developments in sequencing technology have greatly improved our understanding of their role in health and disease. Transposable elements are now known to play a major role in human biology by forming gene regulator networks involved in a range of functions such as pregnancy and innate immunity.  This new appreciation related to health together with decades of research of how transposable elements cause disease make this a critical time for a review that explains the fundamental features of these elements and their broad impact. Haig H. Kazazian Jr. (Johns Hopkins Medical School and one of Mobile DNA’s Editors-in-Chief) and John V. Moran (University of Michigan Medical School and Mobile DNA Editorial Board member) have provided just such a review that is skillfully tuned to the broad readership focused on clinical science.   In a recently published paper in the New England Journal of Medicine titled ‘Mobile DNA in Health and Disease’, the authors summarize over 30 years of research on transposable elements and disease-- without resorting to jargon or specialized terminology! They provide a broad discussion of human transposons, their lifecycle, their activities, their impact on health, and the cells effort to combat them. This is a masterful piece that is both accurate and concise. This discussion is highly relevant because it provides medical researchers with a clear understanding of human transposable elements at a time when personalized medicine may soon incorporate genome-wide genetic screens or whole genome sequences. I encourage all interested in genetic diseases and genome structure to read this outstanding review and hope this article encourages researchers to delve into all the exciting research currently taking place in this area—some of which you can find here at the Mobile DNA journal. I also hope we have an opportunity to publish this new and groundbreaking research in the Mobile DNA journal.

Dr. Henry Levin

National Institutes of Health