This year marks the 60th anniversary of the paper describing DNA with a double helix structure. This structure allows the molecule to store large amounts of information compactly and enables replication. Now researchers at the University of Cambridge are reporting on the discovery of a new DNA structure found within living human cells; a quadruplex or quadruple helix.
This is not the first time DNA has been found with this structure but is the first time it was found within living cells. Previously researchers would find it in test tubes and think of it only as a curiosity, but now it may be a means to treat cancer. The quadruplex structure can form at any time, but is particularly common during a specific stage of cell replication, which is something cancer cells undergo very rapidly. By targeting the quadruplexes it may be possible to target genes within cancer cells and disrupt their ability to spread throughout the body. On the other hand, it may not.
The potential of this research is a complete unknown at this point as the purpose, if any, of the quadruple helix structure is not at all understood. The researchers simply know this structure forms in living cells and when it most frequently forms but little more, for now.
Source: University of Cambridge