One of the functions of the human genome is to pass on the genetic material to the daughter cell. The integrity of this genome is paramount to the stability of the organism. There are many diseases that result from a lack of genomic stability, such as cancer. There are also many different DNA repair mechanisms that protect a cell’s genome against the thousands of different genotoxic insults it encounters every day. The importance of genome integrity, or maintaining the correct DNA sequence, can be highlighted by the fact that the DNA of a cell is the only macromolecule that is repaired, all other cellular macromolecules can be degraded and re-made if they are damaged.
My work focuses on understanding the mechanisms that protect the genome from potentially detrimental damage, namely the DNA repair pathways. Many proteins play vital roles in repairing DNA damage, such as proteins with helicase activity, polymerase activity and nuclease activity. Most of my research focuses on the nucleases involved in DNA repair. These proteins play the important role of removing damaged DNA bases, or sections of DNA that must be removed for further repair to take place.
Understanding the DNA repair processes will enable development of drugs that can synergise with pre-existing mutations in diseased cells. Some examples of targeting this synergy already exist in the clinic, but fully understanding all mechanistic processes of DNA repair will aid the understanding of disease pathogenesis as well as aiding future drug development.