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Steve Smerdon : Structural Biology of DNA-damage Signalling Laboratory

We are investigating the shapes and structures of the molecular ‘machines’ that cells use to repair their DNA.

Every day our DNA gets damaged, either by things in the environment around us – such as tobacco smoke, pollution or ultraviolet light for the sun – or by the natural processes of life at work within our cells.

In order to stay healthy, cells need to detect and repair this damage as quickly as possible. If mistakes in important genes are not swiftly fixed then a cell may start growing out of control, leading to cancer.

We are studying the three-dimensional structures of molecules called kinases, which send signals inside cells to alert them to the presence of DNA damage and trigger the repair process. Our findings are giving us important insights into how these kinases work and how they interact with other parts of the DNA repair machinery inside cells.

By understanding more about the precise shapes of these molecules, we can find out more about how DNA repair is controlled and how mistakes in the process can lead to cancer. We can then use this information to design potential future treatments for cancer and other diseases involving DNA repair.