Researchers have mapped, for the first time, some of the specific molecular interactions that repair DNA double strand breaks that cause cancer, genetic abnormalities, and other types of neurodegeneration and immune disease.
The team, led by Dr Donna Whelan, used advanced microscopy techniques to visualise the first responding proteins at the damaged site and their critical role in the repair process.
“DNA damage and repair is constantly occurring in the human body,” says Dr Whelan. “But, until now, we have not had a clear picture of how it works in healthy cells.”
By applying cutting-edge, single-molecule, super-resolution techniques, the team were able to identify how individual helper proteins interact with each other, and with the DNA itself, to repair breaks.
The research, published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, offers new insight into the optimal pathway for DNA repair in healthy cells.
“Each new protein, pathway, or mechanism that we visualise is a potential target for preventative, prognostic, diagnostic and treatment approaches,” says Dr Whelan.
“These findings inform how we can support pathways to enhance health and how we could block them in cancerous cells which we are aiming to kill.”
“It will allow us to better control disease at the molecular level.”