Study: Key Protein Aids in DNA Repair

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., April 14 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say a protein called Ku is adept at healing damaged DNA — a finding that may advance treatment of cancer and other age-related diseases.

It’s been long known DNA damage over one’s lifetime is key to development of cancer and other age-related diseases. Although the body has multiple ways of repairing such damage, the mechanisms behind certain kinds of DNA repair have not been well-understood.

In the study, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have shown Ku employs a unique mechanism to repair a particularly drastic form of DNA damage.

“Damage to DNA in the form of a broken chromosome, or double strand break, can be very difficult to repair — it is not a clean break and areas along the strand may be damaged at the level of the fundamental building blocks of DNA called nucleotides,” Associate Professor Dale Ramsden said. “This protein actually heals at the nucleotide level as well as the level of the chromosome,” Ramsden said, comparing its action to washing and disinfecting a cut before trying to sew it up to promote healing.

The scientists said their finding might lead to a treatment target for age-related diseases caused by chromosome damage in the future.

The study is reported in the journal Nature.

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