DNA 65 years on: light switch molecules to diagnose disease

It’s 65 years since Watson and Crick published their world-changing paper on the structure of DNA – a discovery they and Rosalind Franklin made using a technique called X-ray diffraction. To mark the anniversary we spoke to Dr James Hall, who uses the same technique today to study molecules which light up when they detect damaged DNA. This could pave the way for future diagnostic tests for diseases such as cancer.

Dr James Hall is a Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in the University of Reading’s Department of Pharmacy. His research uses X-ray crystallography to focus on the structure of nucleic acids – the ‘molecules of life’ which contain the genetic information for living things – and how they become damaged.

In March 2018 he won a Research Outputs prize for his 2016 paper  which the judges said offered “a new hypothesis into DNA-probe binding with significant applications for future diagnostics”. Although only recently published, the paper has been cited 11 times, showing the impact it is already making in the field.

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