‘Junk’ DNA could lead to cancer by stopping copying of DNA
Scientists have found that non-coding ‘junk’ DNA, far from being harmless and inert, could potentially contribute to the development of cancer.
Their study has shown how non-coding DNA can get in the way of the replication and repair of our genome, potentially allowing mutations to accumulate.
It has been previously found that non-coding or repetitive patterns of DNA — which make up around half of our genome — could disrupt the replication of the genome.
But until now scientists have not understood the underlying mechanism, or how it could contribute to cancer’s development. In the new study, scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, reconstituted the entire process of DNA replication in a test tube in order to understand it more completely.
The researchers were able to describe how repetitive patterns of DNA are copied during replication and how they are able to stall replication entirely — increasing the risk of errors that can be an early driver of cancer. This vital knowledge may eventually lead to better drugs and treatments.
The researchers believe the work could also help to improve the diagnosis and monitoring of some cancers, such as bowel cancer, where common errors in copying the repetitive sequences of DNA indicate whether cancer is progressing.
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