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Jasper discovered Sir2 (Silent Information Regulator 2) in baker’s yeast, a gene/protein which silences bits of the genome by removing acetyl groups from histones, around which DNA is intimately wrapped. Sir2, along with 2000 other genes, has a human equivalent, which plays an important role in ageing. Jasper’s group is interested in how subtle differences in gene sequences in the human genome can affect the way their resultant proteins operate. To this end, they transform yeast cells by replacing a yeast gene with the equivalent human gene. So far they have looked at human genes involved in folate metabolism. One gene they’ve looked at seems to be quite different from one human to another, which really affects the way the protein works. The ‘effectiveness’ of the protein influences the availability of folate. Low folate during pregnancy can result in brain defects.