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Researchers Have Seen a New DNA Structure for First Time

It looks like a twisted knot instead of a double helix.

For the first time, biologists have detected a DNA structure inside living human cells that is not a double helix. Instead, the DNA looks more like a four-stranded knot, reports The Los Angeles Times. The tangled shape is called an i-motif, and has been seen before in the lab, but researchers did not expect it to occur in human cells. This new research proves that i-motifs do exist in human cells, and might actually be quite common.

“Our imaging suggests that this is a normal thing that happens,” said Marcel Dinger, a molecular biologist at the Garvan Institute for Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, who oversaw the research, to The LA Times. “It is very likely that genomes in all the cells of our bodies are forming i-motifs at some point in time.”

The study boosts the idea that these unusual DNA shapes may play a vital role in human biology. They might control when genes are turned on to make proteins and when they are quiet, said Laurence Hurley, a professor of medical chemistry at the University of Arizona who was not involved with the work. He also said that no matter what, they are most likely important for chemical biology and molecular therapeutics.
Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times