The University of Southern California (USC) recently published an article in USC News announcing that researchers have discovered a technique allowing them to untangle the coiled, spiraling DNA molecules.
Releasing tension in the molecules creates efficient cellular reprogramming and a pathway to understand how disease develops at the cellular level.
This latest advance in regenerative medicine is significant as it removes an obstacle that has prevented scientists from using repurposed (finding a new use for) cells in the treatment of disease. This would include an extensive number of diseases with emphasis on neurologic impairments.
About Cellular Reprogramming
Now the researchers are able to reprogram cells and switch their identity. This is the modern approach to study disease and regenerative medicine.
The reason for cellular reprogramming’s huge potential to cure disease is that scientists will be able to study molecular processes and cells at every step of disease progression. Until now, this has been impossible.
This is extremely important because the process allows the recreation of tissues that were destroyed by disease and allows physicians to study diseased tissues from patients that they had been unable to biopsy.
The process increases the efficiency of cellular reprogramming, which in turn creates more cells for tissue growth.
Attempting to Unravel DNA in the Past
When the scientists attempted to unravel the DNA molecules they would become even tighter. The problem occurred because of the double helix, which is the coiled structure of double-stranded DNA.
The inability to unravel the DNA molecules (building blocks of DNA) meant that cells did not replicate properly. Untangling was successful only on occasion but the new technique works at almost every application.
Getting the Kinks Out
The new technique utilizes enzymes to untangle DNA in a manner quite similar to the one that a hairstylist would use when conditioning hair.
In order to smooth out the kinks, the scientists used a chemical plus a genetic cocktail to activate enzymes known as topoisomerases. The enzymes open the DNA molecules. Then the coiled tension is released and the enzymes lay the strands out smoothly.
Ready for Studies
It is noted that stem cells are not included in the process. Using reprogrammed cells that are equal in age to the parent cell will be advantageous when studying a disease that is age-related.
These recent findings complement technological advances such as gene editing, stem cell development, and tissue engineering.
A paper prepared by the USC team appears in Cell Stem Cell.
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