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Shoring up DNA ‘bridges’- and preventing cancer

  • Researcher: Dr George Zachos
  • Institution: University of Crete, Greece
  • Award Amount: £163,900 over 3 years from January 2015
  • Cancer Type: General Cancer Research
Shoring up DNA ‘bridges’- and preventing cancer
Dr Zachos is studying the ‘nuts and bolts’ common to just about all cancers. He is particularly interested in DNA structures called chromosomes. The only way to fit our enormously long strands of DNA into each of our tiny cells is to wind each strand up like wool into shorter and fatter structures called chromosomes. Chromosomes usually work fine – doing a great job of storing all that DNA. But sometimes, when our cells divide, chromosomes can become unstable. And this is a key step in the initiation of cancer. Dr Zachos has been focusing on what happens to unstable chromosomes when cells divide. “During cell division, unstable chromosomes can be pulled into what are called chromatin ‘bridges’,” says Dr Zachos. “And without extra support, these bridges will fragment and collapse, or will stop the cell from dividing properly. Both of these scenarios can lead to cancer.” Dr Zachos and his team have recently identified cell proteins which may work to ‘shore up’ these bridges, protecting them from collapsing and cell division from failing. In this project he will find out more about these proteins, and how they work. “This project is really important because chromatin bridges can fuel cancer," he says. "By preventing chromatin bridges from collapsing, we could protect against cancer initiation or stop cancer from spreading.”  
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