How Cells Keep our DNA Intact
We are all born with a specific genetic code—a genome—that is a combination of the DNA of our mothers and fathers, and defines every cell in our body. From the moment of our conception, our DNA is subject to damage. Some of this damage comes from within as a natural consequence of life, while the rest comes from environmental factors, such as radiation exposure.
Dr. Aaron Goodarzi, Canada Research Chair in Genome Damage and Instability Disease, is uncovering the molecular means by which our cells resolve damage in order to keep us alive, cancer-free, and as youthful as possible.
The most serious form of damage occurs when there is a break in both strands of the double helix of our DNA . Unless theses breaks are resealed correctly, whole segments of our genome can be lost, or irrevocably mutated. Failed DNA break repairs can fuel a self-propagating process of volatility within our genetic code that can lead to cancer, aging, and the toxic effects of radiation exposure.
Without the pathways that repair DNA and maintain genomic stability, our species would fail. Every cell of our body incurs DNA double strand breaks on a daily basis, and there are no natural, biological mechanisms to prevent such breakdowns. Humans born unable to respond properly to DNA damage face elevated cancer risks, premature aging and radiation hypersensitivity.
Goodarzi’s research will improve understanding of the processes that keep our genome stable. By doing so, it will also help explain how cancer arises, how it progresses and how it can be treated.