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           02 July, 2020

Category:  Press » Nanotechnology


Tiny Tweezers and Yeast Help St. Jude Show How Cancer Drug Works

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2007-07-10 10:25:17     
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

The annoying bulges of an over-wound telephone cord that shorten its reach help to explain why drugs called camptothecins are so effective in killing cancer cells, according to investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Delft University of Technology.

Using both a type of nanotechnology called magnetic tweezers as well as yeast cells, investigators showed that a camptothecin drug called topotecan kills cancer cells by preventing an enzyme, called DNA topoisomerase I, from uncoiling double-stranded DNA in those cells. Instead, the DNA becomes locked in tight twists, called supercoils, which bulge out from the side of the over- wound DNA molecule -- much like the bulges in an over-wound telephone cord.

If these supercoils accumulate and persist while the cell is trying to separate the two strands of DNA to make exact copies of the chromosomes during cell division, or to gain access to specific genes, the cells will die.

Nanotechnology studies work at a scale of about 100 nanometers or less. For comparison, one nanometer is approximately 10 times the size of an atom; and 10 nanometers is one-thousandth of the diameter of a human hair.

In this first-of-its-kind study, researchers used the microscopic magnetic tweezers to monitor changes in the length of an individual DNA molecule caused by the action of a single topoisomerase I enzyme; and to study how the binding of a single topotecan molecule to this enzyme-DNA complex alters DNA uncoiling. "Our work could help scientists in the clinical development of these agents," said Mary-Ann Bjornsti, Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Molecular Pharmacology. A report on this work appears in the advanced, online issue of "Nature."

Delft University nanotechnology researchers in the laboratory of Nynke Dekker developed the tweezers for studies in biophysics and adapted them to the current study in cooperation with Bjornsti, a co-author of the "Nature" report.

Other authors of the study include Daniel Koster, Elisa Bot and Nynke Dekker (Delft University, The Netherlands) and Komaraiah Palle, a postdoctoral fellow in the Bjornsti lab (St. Jude).

This work was supported in part by the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (The Netherlands), the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health and ALSAC.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Founded by late entertainer Danny Thomas and based in Memphis, Tenn., St. Jude freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance, and families without insurance are never asked to pay. St. Jude is financially supported by ALSAC, its fundraising organization. For more information, please visit http://www.stjude.org.

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URL: http://www.stjude.org
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