3D-printed models of protein complexes, vital components in the process of DNA replication, have been developed by researchers from Imperial College London. These complexes could hold the key to future cancer treatment, revealed a study.
When our cells copy their DNA for replication, it is vital the process runs smoothly, otherwise it can lead to cell death or cancer. To get DNA replication right, the cells use a complex 'machine', made from hundreds of components. Researchers tried to create large-scale 3D printed models of these protein component structures, based on high resolution microscope images.
The study said that the 3D models helps in visualizing how tiny protein components assemble together to form the complex copying machine, each and every time it is required. Through the models, the research team found that if they blocked one key protein, Cdc6, from joining the 'machine', the 'machine' jammed and DNA copying stopped. Lead researcher Christian Speck said, "So Cdc6 motor activity made sure the process worked smoothly, and kept the production line going. It is a sort of quality control protein."
These results may help to improve cancer treatments. Current chemotherapy drugs kill the cancer cells by damaging their DNA, but they can also harm the DNA in healthy cells. This can cause mutations that ultimately drive the cells to develop into secondary tumors. If scientists could develop a treatment that targets the cellular machinery that copies DNA, instead of targeting the DNA itself, they may be able to reduce the risk of such side effects.