Developments to Watch
NEW DRUGS, THANKS TO DNA SCISSORS?
DNA, THE MASTER MOLECULE of life, may soon acquire a new role. Led by Scripps Research Institute biochemist Gerald Joyce in La Jolla, Calif., researchers have found a way to manipulate DNA as a "molecular scissors" that can snip other molecules. Using computers to scan 100 trillion strands of synthetic DNA, Joyce identified eight molecules whose coding enables them to cleave related RNA strands in as short a time as one minute. Using this principle, Joyce thinks DNA-based drugs could be developed to cut the RNA in HIV and herpes viruses and kill them.
Others in recent years have developed similar scissors, based on RNA, that could snip genetic information out of cancer cells, preventing them from reproducing. But DNA, says Joyce, would be more effective than RNA because it is about 1 million times more stable. That means DNA-based drugs might stick around longer in the body and be administered in fewer doses than RNA-based compounds.EDITED BY NEIL GROSS