To locate damaged DNA, amplify it

A new DNA amplification technique could make it easier to pinpoint the causes of cancer. (Credit: iStockphoto)

For the first time, researchers have succeeded in amplifying genes altered by activities such as smoking.

The amplified genes retain the altered information, which could make it easier to pinpoint the causes of cancer.

In many cases, genetic mutations that cause cancer involve chemical changes to individual building blocks of DNA—creating DNA adducts.

The current procedure scientists use to determine whether gene samples contain adducts and, if so, how many is laborious. And it’s impossible to determine the exact location where a building block in the genetic code has been altered into an adduct.

A team led by Shana Sturla, a professor of food and nutrition toxicology at ETH Zurich, has succeeded for the first time in amplifying gene samples containing DNA adducts while retaining references to these adducts.

This type of amplification is a prerequisite for the majority of technologies used by researchers to determine a gene’s DNA sequence.

In the future, it may therefore be possible to expand DNA sequencing from the four basic DNA building blocks to include adducts.

“The scientific community would have an important tool for making a detailed analysis of the molecular mechanisms involved in the initiation of cancer and the corresponding risk factors,” says Sturla.

The team describes the new amplification process in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Source: ETH Zurich