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April 16, 2007


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – More than 100 scientists from across the globe will gather in Louisville on April 21 through 24 for the first-ever conference focused on the role of quadruplex DNA in biology and chemistry – a new field that looks promising to cancer researchers.

“As you may have learned in your high-school or college biology classes, most DNA is double-stranded,” said UofL biophysicist Jonathan Chaires, the organizer of the conference. “However, it turns out that certain DNA sequences can form a different structure in which four separate strands come together and this is known as quadruplex DNA”

The quadruplex DNA phenomenon was discovered in 1962 at the National Institutes of Health by David Davies, who will be the conference’s opening speaker.

It wasn’t until significant progress had been made to sequence the human genome that cellular and molecular biologists found that quadruplex DNA could appear in special places in the genome. It appears that one role of quadruplex DNA may be to act as switches that “turn on” or “turn off” particular genes.

Cancer researchers are excited about the field because these switches may help regulate genes that contribute to or prevent the development of cancer. Scientists worldwide are looking at chemotherapy strategies that could target these four-strand genetic structures to stabilize or disrupt them, depending on the type of gene.

Quadruplex DNA may also be used as a drug itself and represents the foundation of a promising new strategy for the design of cancer drugs. One example is Agro100, a compound based on unusually stable short synthetic pieces of DNA that bind tightly to a specific protein on the surface of cancer cells, interfering with tumor growth. The compound, developed by UofL researchers Donald Miller, John Trent and Paula Bates, is based on a four-strand DNA structure. The spin-off company developed to market Agro100, Aptamera, was purchased in 2005 by British pharmaceutical company, Antisoma .

“This is a very exciting area of research and we’re honored that the first international gathering of scientists in this field are coming to Louisville to collaborate,” said Chaires. “The conference will solidify the position of the Brown Cancer Center as a leader in quadruplex research."


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