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Very little was known till now about DNA repair by homologous recombination, which is fundamental for human health. Now an ETH research group has for the first time isolated and studied all the key proteins involved in this process, laying the foundation for investigating many diseases.
Within our body, the process of cell division is constantly creating new cells to replace old or damaged ones. The genetic information is also duplicated and passed on to the new cells. Complex interaction of many different proteins ensures a smooth process. This is because these proteins immediately repair any errors that creep in during DNA duplication. However, the same protein machinery also performs another function: in germ cells that divide to from gametes—egg cells and sperm—it is responsible for mixing the genetic information of the original maternal and paternal side during cell division. The same mechanism therefore has to resolve two conflicting problems: in normal cell division, called mitosis, it ensures genetic preservation, while in the cell division to produce gametes, or meiosis, it ensures genetic diversity.
Tasks - DNA - Repair - Mitosis - Cancer
Both tasks are vital. If DNA repair does not work in mitosis, this can lead to cancer and other diseases. If, on the other hand, the exchange of DNA in meiosis does not function correctly, the fertility and health of the offspring may be damaged. "Although these processes are crucial for our health, very little was known till now about how the whole system functions and is regulated," says Joao Matos, Professor for Biochemistry at ETH Zurich. His team has now studied the responsible proteins and discovered how they differentiate between the two tasks.
The scientists began by cultivating a large number of yeast cells in the laboratory, as these cells only contain a minute quantity of the proteins involved. The production of the yeast cells was therefore extremely...
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