Chemical Compounds can Alter DNA Structure


DNA, double helix structure/ Photo By Sergey Nivens via 123RF


There are different structures of DNA that exist, but the most common is the double helix structure. In a new study, researchers found that the formation can be changed by using a range of specific triggers.

The researchers at the University of East Anglia applied both nanotechnology and DNA-based computing in their discovery. They found that when DNA has been exposed to copper salts, its shape would change into a hairpin structure. 

The application of a chemical called ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid could reverse the changes made by the copper salts. EDTA is a component usually found in shampoo and other household items. Aside from those substances, the shape of the DNA could also be changed when introduced to a certain amount of oxygen molecules. DNA also reacts with compounds similar to vitamin C or ascorbic acid. Previous studies have found that DNA structure can be modified by acid, which could lead to the 'i-motif' shape.

“This research means that now we can not only change the shape of DNA using a change in pH, we can use copper salts and oxygen to have the same effect,” said Dr. Zoe Waller, the lead author of the study from the School of Pharmacy at UEA.

The research group studied the possible chemical capable of inducing changes in DNA shapes because of its potential implication in medicine. They are studying if remodeling the structure could explain or treat genetic disorders such as cancer and diabetes. However, the research about DNA computing is still at its infancy stage.

Still, the group noted that the study findings do not limit the application of DNA computing to medical purposes only. It can also be applied in manufacturing and nanotechnology, depending on how an industry would employ the methodology.