Scientists have previously found that non-coding and repetitive DNA patterns– also known as “junk” DNA– can be disruptive to the repair and replication of our genome.
The scientists first recreated the process of DNA replication within a test tube. Then, they analyzed exactly how repetitive DNA patterns are copied during the replication process.
The team realized that “junk” DNA is actually able to stall replication completely– leading to an increased margin of error that can be an early contributing factor to the development of cancer.
More specifically, the researchers found that when repetitive DNA was encountered during DNA replication, its DNA strands were unwound– but there was sometimes failure to copy the opposite DNA helix strand.
And unfortunately, this error can cause all replication to halt.
This discovery has led the researchers to believe that repetitive DNA sequences might trigger a damage response signal which indicates that the genome requires repair.
Genome instability and DNA damage are both known drivers that promote the formation and progression of cancer.
So, this research underscored a relationship between junk DNA and cancer.