new insight on DNA

New insight into DNA replication

March 21, 2007

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It turns out the same mathematical approach used to construct actuarial tables for worst-case disaster scenarios can also be used to study the process of DNA replication and gain new insight into the process' reliability.

The discovery was made by SFU physics professor John Bechhoefer (above) and Brandon Marshall, a summer undergraduate intern studying under the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council's Industrial Undergraduate Student Research Awards program. Their findings were published in the March 2 issue of Physical Review Letters, a prestigious journal for physics research.

The duo used their approach to explain how newly fertilized frog eggs can reliably copy their DNA in just 25 minutes using the fewest proteins possible.

The discovery is exciting, explains Bechhoefer, because "we now have a model that looks into the mechanics of DNA replication." He says it's the first step to understanding the dynamics of replication in higher organisms.

"Since cancer is cell replication gone bad, if we can better understand how replication works in a normal cell then we're one step closer to understanding in more detail what happens in cancer cells."

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