Magazine article USA TODAY

Mimic Molecule May Improve Chemotherapy

Magazine article USA TODAY

Mimic Molecule May Improve Chemotherapy

Article excerpt

Maybe you can't fool Mother Nature, but that hasn't stopped James K. Bashkin, an assistant professor of chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis (Mo.), from imitating her. He has created a molecule that mimics the behavior of a kind of naturally occurring RNA called a ribozyme, which acts as a catalyst. The molecule can dismantle the dangerous genetic codes involved in propagating viral and fungal diseases, certain cancers, and even the HIV virus.

DNA is a double-stranded molecule, located in the nucleus of every human cell, that carries the genetic plans of the genes contained on 46 chromosomes. RNA is a single-stranded molecule that acts in tandem with DNA and is responsible for carrying out the plans of DNA by directing the formation of proteins.

Bashkin has chemically engineered a new class of DNA molecule that recognizes specific chemical sequences of messenger RNA (mRNA) and destroys them to prevent the making of harmful proteins. The molecule, which he calls a "functional ribozyme mimic," uses water molecules, abundant in cells, in a chemical reaction to attack specific, targeted sequences of mRNA. …

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