Researchers capture ‘incredible’ images of DNA that could help with cancer

RNA polymerase III is responsible for reading the genetic instructions contained in DNA.

Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research used cyro-electron microscopy to capture the images on RNA polymerase III.

The process starts by immersing RNA polymerase III in water before rapidly freezing it. In doing this, the researchers were able to preserve the microscopic structures of objects and even capture them mid-movement.

A detailed 3D image is then built up by using a beam of electrons that take images from lots of different angles.

Using the images, the researchers were able to ‘unzip’ the DNA and read the genetic code.

Once RNA reads the genetic code, it produces the building materials needed to make key proteins that makes new cells or enables original cells to grow. However, it is this process that is often hijacked by cancer, causing the cells to produce too many proteins and enable cancerous cells to rapidly grow and multiply.

However, now the structure of RNA and its interaction with DNA have been discovered, researchers are hopeful they can design drugs to alter the way it works.

Researcher Dr Alessandro Vannini said:

 "It's a new way of thinking and targeting very central machinery. If we block it completely then all cells will die, but if we can block it partially we can see if we can stop cancers."

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