Four-stranded molecules of human DNA may hold the key to curing cancer, according to new research from Cambridge University.
Scientists claimed the unusual “quadruple helix” molecules could play a pivotal role in the development of rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells.
Experts suggest that targeting the cells before they multiply could be a new method of treating cancer patients by preventing the spread of the disease.
The findings have been released to mark 60 years since James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix DNA structure, whose paper was published in 1953.
The pair, who also conducted their research from Cambridge University, found that human DNA generally consists of two interlinked strands called nucleotides.
However, the new research also found that human genetics can contain four-stranded “quadruplexes”, which are formed in the nucleotide building block guanine.
Previous research found quadruplex DNA to form under man-made conditions inside a laboratory, but nobody had found evidence that the process occurs inside the human body.
The latest findings, which are published in the journal Natural Chemistry, show specific links between molecules and cell division, which scientists believe could hold the key to curing cancer.