Old railway lines easily break down and need regular maintenance. Without that, weeds and trees grow on the line. Trains crash. Similarly, DNA is unstable and can break up. Now, it appears that some of these mutations can be repaired.
The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Tomas Lindahl and Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar for discoveries in DNA repair. They aim to put right some familiar mutations.
Their work uncovered mechanisms used by cells to repair damaged DNA – a fundamental process in living cells and important in cancer. Tomas Lindahl is from the UK’s Francis Crick Institute.
Damaged sites in the chromosomal DNA can result in cell death or cancer, but may be corrected by DNA repair enzymes prior to phenotypic expression.
The prize-winners investigated properties of several nuclear enzymes that remove harmful lesions or local aberrant structures from DNA. The absence of such DNA repair factors may result in an increased frequency of malignant transformation, or in some cases may be detected as immunological deficiencies.