Can we live longer? The physicist discovers telomeres

Can we live longer?  Leiden physicist discovered the protective layer of genes

Determine 1: Cell, Chromosome, and Telomeres. credit score: vin levlange/leiden college

With the assistance of physics and tiny magnets, researchers have found a brand new construction for telomeric DNA. Telomeres are generally seen as the important thing to residing longer. They defend the genes from harm however get a bit shorter every time the cell divides. If it turns into too brief, the cell dies. The brand new discovery will assist us perceive ageing and illness.

Physics just isn’t the primary scientific self-discipline that involves thoughts when DNA is talked about. However John van Noort of the Leiden Institute of Physics (LION) is without doubt one of the scientists who found the brand new construction of DNA. A biophysicist, who makes use of strategies from physics for organic experiments. This additionally caught the eye of biologists from Nanyan Technological College in Singapore. They requested him to assist research the DNA construction of telomeres. They’ve revealed the leads to mood nature.

bead chain

In each cell of our our bodies there are chromosomes that carry the genes that decide our traits (what we appear like, for instance). On the ends of those chromosomes are telomeres, which defend the chromosomes from harm. They give the impression of being a bit like lavender, and the plastic ideas are on the finish of a shoelace.

The DNA between telomeres is 2 meters lengthy, so it should be folded to suit the cell. That is completed by wrapping DNA round bundles of proteins. Collectively, DNA and proteins are known as a nucleosome. They’re organized in one thing just like a string of beads, with a nucleosome, a bit of DNA (or unbound), a nucleosome, and so forth.

Can we live longer?  Leiden physicist discovered the protective layer of genes

Determine 2: The three completely different DNA constructions. credit score: vin levlange/leiden college

Then fold this string of beads over. How to do that depends upon the size of the DNA between the nucleosomes, and the beads on the thread. The 2 constructions that happen after folding had been already identified. In a single, two adjoining beads stick collectively and free DNA dangles between them (Fig. 2a). If the piece of DNA between the beads is shorter, the adjoining beads won’t be able to stay to one another. Then two units of stacks type aspect by aspect (Fig. 2b).

Of their research, Van Noort and colleagues discovered one other telomere construction. Right here the nucleosomes are a lot nearer collectively, so there isn’t a longer any free DNA between the beads. This finally results in the creation of a big helix or a single helix of DNA (Fig. 2C).

The brand new construction was found by a mixture of electron microscopy and molecular pressure spectroscopy. The newest know-how comes from the Van Noort lab. Right here one finish of the DNA is connected to a glass slide and a small magnetic ball is connected to the opposite finish. A bunch of highly effective magnets click on this ball after which separate the string of pearls. By measuring how a lot pressure is required to separate the beads one after the other, you possibly can study extra about easy methods to fold the thread. Then the researchers in Singapore used an electron microscope to get a greater image of the construction.

Synthesis is “the holy grail of molecular biology,” says van Noort. If we all know the construction of molecules, it will give us extra perception into how genes are turned on and off and the way enzymes in cells take care of telomeres: how they restore and replica DNA, for instance. The invention of the brand new telomeric construction will enhance our understanding of the constructing blocks of the physique. This, in flip, will finally assist us research ageing and illnesses akin to most cancers and develop medicine to fight them.


Bending DNA prices much less power than assumed


extra info:
Aghil Soman et al, Vertical construction of human telomeric chromatin, mood nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-022-05236-5

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