Artificial chromosomes is an exciting technology which has developed rapidly since the late 1990s. HACs (human artificial chromosomes) are autonomous molecules that can function and segregate as normal chromosomes in human cells. The advantages of an artificial-chromosome-based system are 2-fold. First, HACs are an excellent research tool for investigating the requirements for normal chromosome structure and function during the cell cycle. They are important in defining the sequence requirements of functional chromosomes, and investigating the organization and composition of the chromatin. Secondly, HACs are useful gene-transfer vectors for expression studies in mammalian cells, with the capacity to incorporate large DNA segments encompassing genes and their regulatory elements. As episomes, they are stably maintained, leading to more reliable and prolonged transgene expression. HACs offer the possibility of long-term gene expression in human cells and the development of future somatic gene therapy.

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