Can we live longer? And does the answer lie in Physics? & More News


With the assist of physics and a minuscule magnet, researchers have found a brand new construction of telomeric DNA.

Physics shouldn’t be the first scientific self-discipline that springs to thoughts at the point out of DNA, however a bunch of scientists, together with John van Noort from the Leiden Institute of Physics (LION) have found a brand new construction of telomeric DNA.

Longevity.Technology: In each cell of our our bodies are chromosomes that carry genes that decide our traits. At the ends of those chromosomes are telomeres, which defend the genes from injury. Telomeres are moderately like aglets, the plastic ideas at the finish of a shoelace – they defend the DNA from injury and fraying. However, each time a cell divides, the telomeres change into shorter, till finally the Hayflick Limit is reached, the cell can now not divide and apoptosis – programmed cell loss of life – happens.

This implies that telomeres are generally seen as the key to dwelling longer, and the researchers behind this new discovery hope it is going to assist us to raised perceive growing old and age-related illnesses.

As a biophysicist, van Noort makes use of strategies from physics for organic experiments; his work caught the consideration of biologists from Nanyan Technological University in Singapore, who requested him to assist examine the DNA construction of telomeres. The outcomes of their collaboration have been printed in Nature.

A string of beads

Chromosomes is likely to be microscopic, however the DNA between the telomeres is 2 metres lengthy! This means it needs to be neatly packed and folded in order to suit into the cell, and that is achieved by wrapping the DNA round packages of proteins; collectively, the DNA and proteins are referred to as a nucleosome, and these are organized into one thing trying moderately like a string of beads, with a nucleosome, a bit of free (or unbound) DNA, a nucleosome and so forth.

READ MORE: Is growing old a biology drawback, or a query of physics? Our interview with Dr Leonard Hayflick

This string of beads then folds up much more, however the way it does so is determined by the size of the DNA between the nucleosomes, the beads on the string. Two buildings that happen after folding have been already identified – in one in every of them, two adjoining beads stick collectively and free DNA hangs in between (fig. 2A). If the piece of DNA between the beads is shorter, the adjoining beads don’t handle to stay collectively. Then two stacks type alongside one another (fig. 2B).

The three different DNA structures
The three totally different DNA buildings | Photograph: Fien Leeflang, Universiteit Leiden

In their examine Van Noort and colleagues discovered one other telomere construction – right here the nucleosomes are a lot nearer collectively, so there isn’t a longer any free DNA between the beads; this finally creates one massive helix, or spiral, of DNA (fig. 2C) [1].

Natural magnetism

The new construction was found with a mixture of electron microscopy and molecular power spectroscopy, with the latter approach originating in Van Noort’s lab. In molecular power spectroscopy, one finish of the DNA is connected to a glass slide and a tiny magnetic ball is caught to the different – a set of sturdy magnets above this ball then pull the string of pearls aside.

By measuring the quantity of power wanted to drag the beads aside one after the other, it’s doable to find extra about how the string is folded, and as a follow-up, the researchers in Singapore used an electron microscope to get a greater image of the construction.

Building blocks

Van Noort describes the construction as ‘the holy grail of molecular biology.’ He explains that if we know the construction of the molecules, this can give us extra perception into how genes are switched on and off and the way enzymes in cells take care of telomeres – how they restore and replica DNA, for instance [2].

The researchers really feel that the discovery of the new telomeric construction will enhance understanding of the constructing blocks in the physique, which, in flip, will finally assist the examine of growing old and age-related illnesses comparable to most cancers – and assist develop medicine to battle them.


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