Tallinn University of Technology

It has been known for a relatively long time that cancer cells generally proliferate more aggressively than normal cells, and now researchers at Tallinn University of Technology are looking for ways to slow down the division of cancer cells by inhibiting DNA duplication or replication, writes the science portal Novaator.

Tatiana Moiseeva DNA vähiravi
Tatiana Moiseeva

Author: Ain Alvela

The research is based on the knowledge that each cell needs to duplicate its DNA to divide, and as cancer cells divide faster than normal cells, it appears that their speed of proliferation depends largely on DNA duplication. It is this fact that makes DNA research a very attractive direction for cancer treatment, because the more we know about how cancer cells duplicate their DNA, the better we will be able to target this process in a conscious way. The aim is to slow down or stop the spread of cancer cells, or even kill them. Thus, a group of Taltech researchers set out to do some basic research, first to find out how cells start the DNA duplication process.

This research group is led by Tatiana Moiseeva, a senior researcher at the Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology at Taltech, who is a molecular biologist by profession. At TalTech, Moiseeva focuses on research related to biological and environmental sciences, which also includes health research. For example, she is involved in areas such as biochemistry, genetics, microbiology, cell biology, molecular biology, etc.

She has always been interested in molecular biology, i.e. all the mechanisms related to cells – how they work, how they are built and what influences these processes. Or, to put it in a very general way, she is interested in all the elements that are invisible to the ordinary person, but which nature has created and which allow us all to exist as living organisms.

Moiseeva’s latest scientific article was published in the journal Nature Communication and it was written on the topic of DNA and cancer, i.e. how the development of cancer cells and the rate at which they develop depends on DNA. Research is based first on the knowledge that every cell also contains DNA – the genetic sequence unique to a particular organism, which in many ways determines the life cycle of that organism. DNA stores all the information about how a cell works and what characterises it. Cells proliferate by division, which requires DNA duplication during the interphase of cell growth. If the DNA is not copied, the cell cannot divide. This is the starting point for further research.

It is also known that if the DNA becomes damaged for any reason, this can lead to cancer cells developing from the initially healthy cell. Damage can occur during the course of life, but also as a result of the copying of DNA as the carrier of the organism’s genetic makeup. Such mutations are often the cause of cancer, which is why one of the main lines of research in science is to use DNA to learn about the individual genome of a person to identify and prevent inherited diseases.

Tatiana Moiseeva’s research has a longer-term perspective of finding substances that, by inhibiting the replication of cancer cell DNA, would also prevent the cancer cells themselves from dividing and could in the future serve as a basis for developing effective cancer medicines or otherwise improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment.

‘Specifically, I’m looking at the process of how a cell duplicates DNA. DNA is in a highly compressed form in the cell, if you stretch it out you get a line about two metres long. Because of this, the DNA duplication has to be very precise,’ says Moiseeva, describing the content of her work. ‘Of course, the cell knows how to carry out this complex process, but this is exactly what our group of researchers is studying and learning about – how the cell duplicates DNA to then divide itself. It is important to know the nature of this process, because if DNA does not divide in the cell, cells cannot divide. If we know what prevents DNA duplication, we can use it to stop cell development, for example in cancer cells.’

With this knowledge, we will eventually be able to develop preparations that prevent cells from producing more DNA. This, in turn, could make an effective contribution to fighting cancer cells in the body.

*Read the full article on Novaator.