‘Quadruple helix’ cancer cure

By | News & Politics
Photo © Andrew Brookes/Corbis

A group of chemical biologists at the University of Cambridge have proven the existence of the quadruple helix in human cells, which may be a valuable tool in eliminating cancer.

Sixty years ago, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA in their Cambridge laboratory. Now, a new team led by Shankar Balasubramanian has taken the next step in discovering the ‘quadruple helix.’ A quadruple helix contains four strands of DNA rather than two. They had previously been created by researchers although were thought to be nonexistent in nature until a study published online in the scientific journal Nature Chemistry.

The study indicates that quadruple helices are present in human cancer cells, which means that cancer medication may be developed to target these DNA structures. “This research further highlights the potential for exploiting these unusual DNA structures to cure cancer,” said Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, Dr. Julie Sharp. “The next part of this pipeline is to figure out how to target them in tumour cells.”

Balasubramanian of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry also feels the quadruple helix may be valuable in taking on cancer. The quadruple helix DNA structure may well be the key to new ways of selectively inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells. The confirmation of its existence in human cells is a real landmark.

How may this possible discovery help benefit cancer patients positively?

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