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Genomic Butterfly Effect Starts in Telomeres, Spreads to Influence Cell Fate

The twitch of a butterfly’s wing can initiate a cascade of increasingly substantial events, culminating in changes that are both profound and far-reaching. That’s the gist of any butterfly effect, whether it’s the formation of hurricane, the climax of a Hollywood movie, or the differentiation of a stem cell. A stem cell’s fate, it turns out, can hinge on a single protein, one that stays in telomeres but accounts for genome-wide changes. The protein, telomer repeat binding factor 1 (TRF1), may “twitch” one way or another. If TRF1 is upregulated, a cell may enter or maintain the pluripotent state. If TRF1 is abrogated, a cell may activate its cell-fate programs and hasten toward its differenti

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