Prof. Xianjun Dong

Issuing time:2021-09-17 23:24

Xianjun Dong.jpg


Xianjun Dong, PhD


Assistant Professor; Director of Genomics and Bioinformatics Hub


Harvard Medical School; Brigham and Women’s   Hospital


100-word biography:

Dr. Dong is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and head of the Genomics and Bioinformatics Hub at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Before that, he did his Ph.D. at the University of Bergen and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He’s been trained to develop computational methods to study the transcriptional regulation of the human genome (ENCODE, Nature   2012; Dong et al. Nature Neuroscience, 2018). He has published 40+ articles with 15,000+ citations and an H-index of 21. He is currently awarded by NIH, American arkinson Disease Association, and ASAP. His lab website:


Decoding the dark matters in the human genome


Only less than 2% of the human genome   encodes proteins. The rest non-coding part has long been called ‘junk’ DNA.   However, we found that some of the non-coding regions are highly conserved among species, and many of them act as cis-regulatory   elements controlling the expression of target genes in diseases and   development. Moreover, we recently found that a surprisingly large proportion (64%) of the human genome is transcribed in the human brain neurons. Via a novel computational method, we identified over 71,000 such transcribed non-coding elements (TNEs) in dopamine neurons alone. Many of them act as enhancer RNAs (eRNAs) and are highly enriched with GWAS risk variants from dopamine-associated traits and diseases. We further identified over 10,000 high-confident circRNAs from brain neurons, providing new insights into neurodegeneration mechanisms and biomarker development. With more unexplained observations in the post-genomic era, we think the so-called “junk” regions in the human genome are like the “dark matter” in the universe, worthy of more efforts following the recent development of single-cell and spatial genomics technologies.


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