In the study, the team used the latest computer simulations and quantum mechanical techniques to determine the role that purely quantum proton tunneling plays in spontaneous mutations within DNA.

Quantum biology is a new field of science founded in the 1920s that studies whether the subatomic world of quantum mechanics plays a role in living cells. Quantum mechanics is inherently an interdisciplinary field that brings together nuclear physicists, biochemists, and molecular biologists.

“Many have long suspected that the quantum world is strange, illogical and wonderful, and it plays a role in the body. But part of our body can be present in two places at the same time, because in the quantum world this happens all the time, and our research confirms that quantum tunneling also occurs in DNA at room temperature. “

Dr Marco Sacchi, Project Leader and Fellow, Royal Society, University of Surrey
Proton tunneling involves the spontaneous disappearance of a proton from one location and the reappearance of the same proton nearby. The research team found that very light hydrogen atoms provide bonds that hold the two strands of the DNA double helix together. But they can, under certain conditions, behave like propagating waves that can exist in several places simultaneously due to proton tunneling. This leads to the fact that these atoms are sometimes found on the wrong DNA strand, which leads to mutations. short-lived, but biologically significant point mutations that can further lead to gene mutations and possibly cancer.

The team has shown that mutations can survive in the DNA replication mechanism within cells and potentially cause health problems. They are short-lived, but they are biologically significant, albeit pinpoint, which can further lead to mutation of an entire gene and, possibly, to cancer. This is because quantum mechanical tunneling of hydrogen atoms occurs inside the bonds that bind the DNA duplex together, in other words, inside the DNA base.