Live wire

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Science  12 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6215, pp. 1284-1287
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6215.1284

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Every day, the DNA in each cell in our bodies is damaged up to 1 million times by everything from mutagens in the food we eat to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight. A broad family of proteins seeks out and repairs this damage. But their search for damage is a relatively slow process. Thirty years ago, Jacqueline Barton and her colleagues showed that DNA is able to conduct electricity like a molecular wire. Now, the California Institute of Technology chemist is amassing evidence that cells harness this ability to help them home in on sites of DNA damage within each cell by revealing defects in DNA that disrupt its charge-carrying ability. That might not be all. New evidence also suggests that DNA's conductivity may also play a role in other DNA maintenance jobs essential for life, including reading and copying genetic information.