New collaboration with South Korea looks at DNA repair

Geneticist Mihwa Lee will be working with Dr Yoon Jong-Bok from Yonsei University

Our DNA undergoes constant damage from internal and external sources each day, and if unrepaired can result in disease, most notably cancer. The importance of fail-safe DNA response – from detection of DNA damage to repair – is paramount.

Dr Mihwa Lee from the Department of Biochemistry and Genetics at La Trobe University is an expert in structural biology with particular interest on the RNA-binding proteins, which are involved in DNA damage response and repair.

“DNA is responsible for replicating and storing genetic information, but it’s the RNA that acts as both a courier and translator, converting this genetic information to a format that can be used to build proteins,” says Dr Lee.

“Traditionally safeguarding of DNA has been considered as the roles of DNA-binding proteins only because they can interact with DNA directly. Recent studies, however, show that  RNA-binding proteins are also crucial in communicating when DNA is damaged and needs to be repaired, but how they sense the damage and communicate where to go for repairs remains to be characterised.”

Dr Lee is now collaborating with Dr Yoon Jong-Bok, a Professor in Biochemistry based at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. Professor Yoon is a renowned researcher in the field of DNA damage repair using cell biology approaches. It is the hope that their complementary approaches on the similar research interests will be mutually beneficial in their research.

Dr Lee has been awarded a La Trobe Asia Research Grant to assist in the collaboration, and will be looking into other funding sources such as the Australia-Korea Foundation (AKF) for collaborative work.

“While our research is just at the preliminary stages we’re hopeful for tangible outcomes within the next twelve months,” says Dr Lee. “This La Trobe Asia Research Grant is an excellent opportunity to initiate the collaboration with Professor Yoon, who is a respected researcher with a complementary interest to my own. It will also further the collaborative relationship between our two universities.”

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