Biotech Updates

First Description of A Triple DNA Helix in Vacuum

April 27, 2012

For the first time, researchers from the Institute of Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (BSC) are able to extract the structural information of a triple helix DNA reliable gas phase.

According to Dr. Modesto Orozco, principal investigator at the IRB Barcelona and director of Life Sciences at the BSC, with the aid of their study, it is only now that the special DNA structures are characterized. Before, it is not known if they have preserved structural memory in solution when they were evaporated. Dr. Orozco states that the study also demonstrates that these special DNA structures maintain a "surprising memory of its previous biological environment, aqueous solution, in which it is normally difficult to characterize."

It has taken more than 10 years for the group to complete the atlas of classical DNA structures in gas phase. Through mass spectrometry, Dr. Orozco and his team have combined computational simulation techniques with experimental validation.

This breakthrough could help in the development of antigen therapy, a triple DNA helix-based therapeutic approach that can switch off the activity of genes responsible for specific diseases. Dr. Orozco states that there is still no drug based on gene therapy, although some are already under development. Aside from aiding the advancements in antigen therapy research, the study of Dr. Orozco's team might soon enable the use of x-ray free-electron lasers (X-FEL) in acquiring structural data about the behavior of a molecule in its natural biological environment while in gas phase. If this happens, Dr. Orozco adds that the X-FEL will become a powerful tool in resolving the structure of macromolecules.

Find more about the study of Dr. Orozco's team at