Scientists led by Mike Hannon at the University of Birmingham and Miquel Coll at the Spanish Research Council in Barcelona have discovered a new way that drugs can attach themselves to DNA, which is a crucial step forward for researchers who are developing drugs to combat cancer and other diseases.
DNA contains the information which encodes life itself; its double-helical structure was recognised 50 years ago. Scientists soon started designing drugs to target DNA and used them to treat diseases such as cancer, viral infections and sleeping sickness. In the 1960s, scientists discovered three different classes of clinical drug, each of which recognised DNA in a different way. Subsequent drugs have used only these three ways to recognise the DNA. Now the Birmingham and Barcelona teams have found a fourth which is completely different and opens up entirely new possibilities for drug design.
The scientists have developed a synthetic drug agent that targets and binds to the centre of a 3-way junction in the DNA. These 3-way junction structures are formed where three double-helical regions join together. They are particularly exciting as they have been found to be present in diseases, such as some Huntington’s disease and myotonic dystrophy, in viruses and whenever DNA replicates itself, for example, during cancer growth.
Kate Chapple | alfa
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