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MUSC findings significant in cancer, premature aging research

A paper scheduled for publication in August by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Deepak Bastia, Ph.D., Donnelley Professor of Biomedical Sciences at MUSC, and his collaborator Marc Greenberg, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, reveal how so-called terminator proteins stop the gene duplication process, a key discovery in cancer and aging research.
In explaining the findings, Bastia explains that DNA, which carries the genetic information of a cell and consists of thousands of genes that serve as a recipe on how to build a protein molecule, is a double helix in which two strands are wound around each other. These strands have to be unwound by a class of enzymes called helicases. Mutations in certain human helicases cause cancer and premature aging.
Bastia had demonstrated in an earlier study that gene duplication is stopped by a protein called a terminator protein, which counteracts with the helicase. In the July PNAS publication, Bastia and his colleagues present how a terminator protein stops a helicase. The work is of fundamental and medical significance considering that defects in helicases can result in serious human diseases, Bastia said. Therefore, learning how to manipulate a helicase with small molecules can have potential therapeutic significance. Scientifically, such insights can result in the future clinical applications.

Friday, Aug. 8, 2008
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