Monday, February 5, 2007

UKALL 2003 - a Very Small DNA Primer

As most of these drugs are messing with the DNA that forms the nucleus of a cell and preventing it from reproducing or splitting, I think I should say a little bit about DNA before I continue this series of posts about the drugs Kezia is taking.

The nucleus of a cell is its “brain”. It controls everything. Birth, Life, Death. The DNA consists of four chemical compounds known to our scientists as A (adenine), T (thymine), G (guanine) and C (cytidine). And they are known as bases.

Each of these chemical bases is connected with a sugar named in chemistry a deoxyribose (whose structure I showed in the Cytarabine post). If we can fool the bases to combine with a defective sugar (for example, a molecule out of place as in Cytarabine) or otherwise mess with DNA's structure (as in Daunorubicin), then the DNA won't function correctly and the cell won't reproduce before dying. Equally, if we deprive the cell of something the DNA needs to reproduce (as in the case of Vincristine), then the cell won't be able to reproduce.

Because these drugs are messing with DNA etc indiscriminately, they effect both healthy and cancerous cells. What are really needed, are drugs or treatments that only target cancerous cells – hence the interest in Dichloroacetate (that we blogged about here – and Dr Crippen at our favourite NHS Blog Doctor only picked up yesterday – beat you John!). Copy of the original research paper as a pdf is here.

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