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Clemson Wins $790K DNA Repair Grants

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Clemson University has won around $790,000 in grants from the US Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health to study how cells repair DNA that has been damaged and can be a cause of cancer and other genetic illnesses.

The $560,000 DoD grant and the $223,000 NIH grant will support research that seeks to understand the “basic mechanisms of DNA repair” and “how DNA repair contributes to cancer prevention,” Clemson associate professor in the Genetics and Biochemistry department and principal investigator on the grants, Weiguo Cao, said in a statement. The grants are for three years.

DNA repair proteins may have important implications for cancer understanding and cancer treatment.

“The link between DNA repair and cancer is well known in some instances,” Cao said. “For example, some people are susceptible to skin cancer due to defect in DNA repair.”

DNA in a cell may be damaged over 10,000 times per day by stresses that affect both military personnel and civilians, such as infection, inflammation, genetic duplication errors, ultraviolet light, air pollution, and carcinogenic substances.

If DNA is damaged and not repaired it can cause mutations that can accumulate and lead to cancer and other illnesses. Some drugs used in cancer treatment are designed to damage DNA, and the success of such drugs could be influenced by DNA repair activities that could be used to improve cancer therapies.

"My lab studies a repair process for another cause of DNA mistakes: deamination. Deamination damages DNA, causing part of the genetic code to be copied wrong [resulting] in mismatched pairings of biochemicals that contain the instructions for proper cell function," Cao continued.

"We want to know how DNA repair enzymes find the damage and remove it. The research can help understand how defects in repair of deaminated DNA cause cancer,” he added.