EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Researchers at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have made a discovery that could potentially impact gene editing strategies, among other things.

DNA can have double-stranded breaks and Professor Kathy Meek, along with collaborators, discovered how those breaks can be repaired.

According to MSU, Meek’s team and their collaborators had published structural studies that revealed two different DNA-PK complexes, called dimers.

But why would there be two dimers rather than just one?

A protein called DNA-PK lends a hand to the repair process of double-stranded DNA. There are two different DNA-PK protein complexes that play specific roles, meaning that one DNA-PK’s role cannot be assumed by the other DNA-PK.

One complex recruits enzymes that fill in lost information, while the other activates cutting enzymes that remove “dirty” ends.

When a cell has more than one double-stranded break, there’s a chance that the end of the DNA can be joined with the wrong partner. That wrong match, according to MSU, is associated with multiple forms of cancer.

“It still gives me chills,” says Meek. “I don’t think anyone would have predicted this.”