A new study published in Nature Scientific Reports says that cancer-causing genetic mutations have "electronic signatures" that allow them to get past a cell's damage-repair mechanism, says the Futurity blog. Researchers from the UK and Taiwan used supercomputers to model all possible mutations for 162 disease-related genes, and found that the mutations associated with cancer cause a smaller change in the electronic structure of a DNA molecule than other mutations, Futurity says. This makes them less detectable as anomalies and they can therefore be skipped over by a cell's damage-repair process. "You could compare these disease-causing mutations to planes that use stealth technology to go undetected by defense systems like radar," says study co-author Rudolf Roemer. "Similarly the real-life mutations that show up in the medical databases are likely to be the ones that didn't have a sufficiently dramatic effect on the structure of the DNA when they first appeared, which is why they were not spotted and repaired early on by the body's molecular defense mechanisms." This study suggests that clinicians could one day use such electronic signatures to detect cancer much earlier, Futurity adds.
Feb 23, 2012