UCD and Trinity discovery could make cancer studies crystal clear

19 Oct 2015

Researchers in UCD and Trinity have helped develop a new crystal-focused scientific technique for viewing the early stages of DNA ‘oxidation’, the precursor to DNA damage, mutations and cancer.

Along with UK colleagues, UCD and Trinity scientists worked on using DNA in crystals, rather than solution, resulting in far more stable ways to view potential issues.

The problem with using solution is there are lots of different ways for the drugs to bind to the DNA, with this latest ‘crystallography’ technique potentially leading to a raft of new discoveries.

“These results are very exciting,” said UCD’s Dr Susan Quinn – the lead author of the study, published in Nature Communications – who worked with Trinity College, the University of Reading and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory for the paper.

Crystallography opens the door

“They demonstrate the ability to follow the flow of electrons from an individual DNA base to a bound molecule whose exact position is known and this is an enormous advantage in the study of the early events that lead to oxidative DNA damage.”

The crystallography approach “opens the door” for research into what leads to DNA mutations, which can take place in less than one billionth of a second.

A combination of UCD and Trinity’s knowledge in the field of DNA, Reading’s expertise in X-ray crystallography and The Rutherford group’s ‘Central Laser Facility’ helped lead to this discovery.

“This is an important step in our collaborative work to understand the action of DNA-targeting compounds when they are taken up by cancer cells,” added Trinity’s Prof John Kelly, who worked on the research.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic