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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chemistry nobel DNA research lays foundation for new ways to fight cancer

Our cells are up against a daily onslaught of damage to the DNA that encodes our genes. It takes constant effort to keep up with the DNA disrepair – and if our cells didn't bother to try to fix it, we might not survive. The DNA damage repair pathways are an essential safeguard for the human genome.
The 2015 Nobel Laureates in chemistry received the prize for their pioneering work figuring out the molecular machinery that cells use to repair that DNA damage. In their basic research, Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar each narrowed in on one piece of the DNA repair puzzle.
They've laid the framework for the research that many basic and translational scientists are expanding upon to try to crack cancer. Ironically, we're finding ways to turn that DNA repair system against cancerous cells that have often arisen from DNA damage in the first place.
DNA under siege
DNA is composed of four simple letters, or nucleotides, A, T, C and G. When combined, these nucleotides form the genetic code. There are approximately 30,000 genes in the human genome.
Each time a cell grows and divides, every single gene needs to be faithfully copied to the next generation of cells. This process of DNA replication is constantly threatened by both internal and external sources of DNA damage. There are environmental sources such as radon from the earth or UV light from the sun. Or it can be just a mistake, happening within the cell as a consequence of normal growth and division.