Quadruple helix DNA discovery 'key to fighting cancer'
Lead researcher Giulia Biffi generated antibody proteins that detect and bind to areas in a human genome rich in quadruplex-structured DNA, proving their existence in living human cells.
Researchers identified 'hot spots' for the occurrence of four-stranded DNA, using fluorescence to mark the antibodies.
A marked increase was shown when the fluorescent staining grew more intense during the 's-phase' - the point in a cell cycle where DNA replicates before the cell divides.
Cancers are usually driven by genes called oncogenes that have mutated to increase DNA replication - causing cell proliferation to go out of control leading to tumour growth.
The increased DNA replication rate in oncogenes leads to an intensity in the quadruplex structures. This means that potentially damaging cellular activity can be targeted with synthetic molecules or other forms of treatments.
"We have found that by trapping the quadruplex DNA with synthetic molecules we can sequester and stabilise them, providing important insights into how we might grind cell division to a halt," said Balasubramanian.