In a recent issue of Cell authors Su et al. carried out genome-wide analyses of genomic distribution, evolutionary conservation, histone positioning and epigenetic profiles to examine the characteristics of Alu elements. They found that Alu elements in multiple tissues and cell-lines resemble those of putative transcription enhancers. They also find that Alus show long-range interactions with gene promoters, and their similarity to enhancers becomes more prominent with their age in the human genome. The authors conclude that some Alu elements can function as enhancers, and, further, that many more Alus may be proto-enhancers that serve as a repertoire for the de novo birth of enhancers.