A representation of the four-stranded structure (L) with fluorescent markers revealing its presence inside cells (R)

20 January 2013 Last updated at 14:19 ET

‘Quadruple helix’ DNA seen in human cells

By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News

Cambridge University scientists say they have seen four-stranded DNA at work in human cells for the first time.

The famous “molecule of life”, which carries our genetic code, is more familiar to us as a double helix.

But researchers tell the journal Nature Chemistry that the “quadruple helix” is also present in our cells, and often in functions related to cancer.

They suggest that control of the structures could provide novel ways to fight the disease.

“The existence of these structures may be loaded when the cell has a certain genotype or a certain dysfunctional state,” said Prof Shankar Balasubramanian from Cambridge’s department of chemistry.

“We need to prove that; but if that is the case, targeting them with synthetic molecules could be an interesting way of selectively targeting those cells that have this dysfunction,” he told BBC News.

Read more: BBC News – 'Quadruple helix' DNA seen in human cells.

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