Scientists from the University of Utah have adapted the “nanopore” method to find DNA damage that can lead to mutations and disease. Indeed sequencing DNA – decipher genetic blueprints – is faster and cheaper by passing strands of the genetic material through molecule-sized pores. Strands of DNA are made of “nucleotide bases” known as A, T, G and C. Some stretches of DNA strands are genes.The new method looks for places where a base is missing, known as an “abasic site,” one of the most frequent forms of damage in the 3-billion-base human genome or genetic blueprint. This kind of DNA damage happens 18,000 times a day in a typical cell as we are exposed to everything from sunlight to car exhaust. Most of the damage is repaired, but sometimes it leads to a gene mutation and ultimately disease.
“We’re using this technique and synthetic organic chemistry to be able to see a damage site as it flies through the nanopore,” says Henry White, distinguished professor and chair of chemistry at the University of Utah and senior coauthor of the new study.