Quadruple helix DNA discovery 'key to fighting cancer'
Researchers have proved that four-stranded 'quadruple helix' DNA structures - known as G-quadruplexes - also exist within the human genome and form in regions of DNA that are rich in the building block guanine 'G'.
The study, published in Nature Chemistry shows clear links between concentrations of four-stranded quadruplexes and the process of DNA replication, which is pivotal to cell division and production.
By targeting quadruplexes with synthetic molecules that trap and contain these DNA structures - preventing cells from replicating their DNA and consequently blocking cell division - scientists believe it may be possible to halt the runaway cell proliferation at the root of cancer.
"We are seeing links between trapping the quadruplexes with molecules and the ability to stop cells dividing, which is hugely exciting," said Professor Shankar Balasubramanian from Cambridge's Department of Chemistry.
"The research indicates that quadruplexes are more likely to occur in genes of cells that are rapidly dividing, such as cancer cells. For us, it strongly supports a new paradigm to be investigated - using these four-stranded structures as targets for personalised treatments in the future," Balasubramanian said in a statement.
Physical studies have shown that quadruplex DNA can form in vitro - in the 'test tube'. Now researchers know for the first time that they actually form in the DNA of human cells.
"This research further highlights the potential for