Scientists have found a way to study the shape and movement of individual molecules of DNA, the genetic material that contains the building blocks of life.

The technique – called single molecule fluorescence – has enabled researchers to obtain the most precise information yet about the workings of single DNA molecules – which measure just one millionth of a centimetre across.

The researchers, from Cancer Research UK, have been able to describe the intricate processes that take place when tiny pieces of DNA are swapped over during gene repair – a process vital for keeping cancer at bay.