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The Knotty Maths of Medicine

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Learn how mathematically understanding knots, like the kind in your shoelaces, has helped us to understand DNA and diseases better.

The structure of DNA was famously elucidated at Cambridge by Crick and Watson, based on Xrays from Rosalind Franklin. The central axis of this famous DNA double helix is often topologically constrained or even circular. The shape of this axis can influence which proteins interact with the underlying DNA . So it is perhaps not surprising that in all cells there are proteins whose primary function is to change the DNA axis shape—for example converting a link into an unknot. These proteins are major targets of both antibiotics and chemotherapeutic drugs. We explore how mathematically understanding both these proteins and the underlying DNA shape help to understand and develop these drugs.

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