Skip to main content

Dissecting DNA with Nanotechnology

NanoEngineering professor Gaurav Arya
NanoEngineering professor Gaurav Arya

NanoEngineering professor Gaurav Arya is using innovative approaches to deduce the internal structure of chromatin, a key player in DNA regulation, a breakthrough that could unlock the mystery behind the origin of many diseases such as cancer.

This new discovery reconciles a longstanding controversy among scientists and biologist alike. The structure of chromatin has been a subject of many controversies during the last 30 years, with two different models being the focus of debate. The new findings by Arya and his colleagues from Penn State University, the University of Massachusetts, and New York University, suggest that the structure of chromatin is actually a combination of both of these models. The function of chromatin is to package DNA into a smaller volume to fit in the cell. Chromatin also plays an important role in the regulation of genetic processes like DNA replication, transcription, recombination, and repair because all these processes depend critically on the accessibility of the DNA, which is directly controlled by chromatin. Many diseases, including cancer, are directly linked to abnormal regulation of chromatin.

Arya and his team, for the first time, have developed a very sophisticated model of chromatin that is computationally accessible yet detailed enough to provide insights into its structure and dynamics. "This research emphasizes how engineering tools can provide new insights into biology," Arya says.

The next step for Arya and his team is to study the mechanisms by which chromatin is regulated, and how those lead to genes being switched "on" and "off," genes being repaired in response to mutations, and genes being replicated during cell division. Arya believes that a molecular-level understanding of such mechanisms could lead to the development of better drugs that will directly target the chromatin around abnormally regulated genes to correct their activity.

Print Article 

Related Links

Website: Gaurav Arya Lab »

News Release: DNA Discovery »