Can you do the twist? – Quadruple helix DNA discovered in cells

On HuffPost Science today, there was a short article – really a tease – on the recent discovery of quadruple helix DNA. A better reference (especially if you want more details) would be the Nature Chemistry article they reference.

For those of you not up on the nature of life in the Universe – well, at least on Earth – DNA is composed of four chemicals which bind in specific patterns in a ladder-like shape. The ladder twists naturally into a spiral – a double-helix.

A section of DNA; the sequence of the plate-li...

A section of DNA; the sequence of the plate-like units (nucleotides) in the center carries information. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scientists have thought for awhile that a doubling of this shape could be possible based simply upon the chemicals involved and had even previously found it in laboratory tests. However, this is the first time it was proven to exist naturally.

What does it do? Is it there through evolution with a purpose? Or is it a mistake?

Little else is known at this point, but the article doesn’t shy away from teasing with the idea that this might be The Key to finding an end to cancer.

I’m getting cynical in my old age because I just don’t believe that. I think there is too much evidence supporting the idea that cancer is essentially inevitable. Not in the sense that everyone will get it. Not even in the sense that we can’t find ways to reduce it (or at least stem the ever-growing tidal wave looming over us). Instead, I feel it’s an integral to nature.

Cancer is the error in your binary code. It’s the nail on the highway which punctures your tire after missing the car only feet in front of you. In the words of Mike Doughty, it’s the “random call patched to the pay phone.”

Cancer is chance gone wrong, but it’s part of nature. It’s a mechanism of entropy tearing down order.

That sounds like I should have no hope. Like I don’t care and maybe like cancer hasn’t had a big impact on my life. None of that is true.

I go to work 5-days a week to help fight cancer, working with an amazing team of people with the same goals and similar histories and motivations.

The only way to stop entropy, after all, is to continue to pour in energy to maintain order. In cancer care, that is through diagnosis and treatment and maybe – probably a decade or more in the future – the quadruple helix DNA will help to create drugs and other treatments to better target cancer.

I just know it will never be a cure. Not in the sense that most people think of – a cure being the end of a disease. The end. No way to go back.

The medical definition of a cure is subtly but fundamentally different in that it is a return to health, but leaves open the possibility of recurrence. But, that really is a discussion for another night.


Copyright 2013 by T. E. Wilson

One response to “Can you do the twist? – Quadruple helix DNA discovered in cells

  1. Pingback: Obsession? | Below Zero | Above Infinity·

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