Cancer treatment could be aided by the discovery of a protein complex, which has been identified as having a crucial role in DNA repair.
Scientists at the University of Michigan established that the three-protein DNA repair complex MRN is needed to ensure that gene-shuffling is able to occur.
However, if mistakes are made in the repair of a gene break this can cause cancer to develop, experiments on mice revealed.
Dr David Ferguson, the study's senior author and assistant professor of pathology at the U-M Medical School, commented: "Class switch recombination represents a double-edged sword, being necessary for immune system function, but known to cause cancer when mistakes are made.
"We now understand that Mre11 and the MRN complex as a whole lie in the middle of this delicate balance."
DNA repair may be necessary in the event that environmental factors or metabolic processes in the cell cause damage.