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How do cells copy themselves correctly?

  • Researcher: Dr Julian Sale
  • Institution: The Medical Research Council
  • Award Amount: £144,710 for 3 years from June 2011
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
How do cells copy themselves correctly?

Every cell in our body contains thousands of genes. Genes are like our blueprint - they determine everything that our cells do. Cancer is caused by changes to either the structure or activity of key genes that regulate how cells operate, divide and die. While every cell has a copy of every gene, any given type of cell needs only some of the genes to be active. So, when a cell divides to produce two new cells, it not only has to copy all of its genetic information and then give one complete and properly functioning set of genes to each of the two new cells, the new cells also have to remember which genes were turned on and which were turned off. With a grant from Worldwide Cancer Research Dr Sale is investigating a gene called REV1 which, if missing or damaged, alters how cells copy their DNA in such a way that cells forget, as they divide, which genes were on and which were off. This type of cellular memory loss is seen in many cancers and understanding how it happens is important for understanding how cancer develops and how it can be treated.

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